I’m ready to sing it from the rooftops: I finally found a form of exercise that I’ve stuck with and that I truly enjoy. It’s not too strenuous—but it burns enough calories for me, makes me feel good, and is easy to fit into my routine. So, what is it? Walking. Yes, that’s it: just going for a nice long walk. I have long heard about the benefits of walking (and obviously have gone for walks here and there in the past), but I hadn’t really gotten into a regular routine until recently.
I’ve always been someone who reaaaaally struggles to find the motivation to workout, and I’ve also struggled with finding a type of workout that I truly enjoy. I’ve had little bursts of getting into a routine and doing one specific workout multiple times a week, but I always end up becoming bored of it and then losing motivation to work out altogether.
Last year, I was inspired by the “Hot Girl Walk” trend on TikTok (if you haven’t seen it, it’s basically just putting on music that makes you feel confident, using the time to manifest for yourself, and walking a few miles) to invest in a good pair of walking shoes and a fanny pack and really commit. Now, every time I go for a walk, I come back to my apartment feeling so much better and like I did something great, not only for my physical health but for my mental health as well.
What are the benefits of walking?
According to Mayo Clinic, daily walking may help your general physical health because it can improve cardiovascular fitness, assist in maintaining a healthy weight, and strengthen your bones, muscles, and endurance. Regular walking has numerous mental health benefits as well: It can increase your energy levels, improve coordination, strengthen your immune system, and reduce stress. It can also improve your mood, cognition, memory, and sleep. I mean seriously, what’s not to love? Experts at the Mayo Clinic also say you should walk at least 30 minutes per day to truly enjoy all of the benefits of walking. You could also take it up a notch by adding weights or using the interval or incline features on a treadmill.
But is walking a good enough workout on its own? Stephanie Mansour, a certified personal trainer, yoga and Pilates instructor, and weight loss coach for women, says without a doubt, yes. “Walking often gets a bad rap as being not intense enough to create real change or a cop-out from more effective forms of exercise. Both of which are entirely false!” she wrote on TODAY.com. In fact, many experts swear walking is the best exercise, and should be prioritized over going to the gym or an intense HIIT session. On The Blonde Files Podcast, celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak explained that if you only have 40 minutes a day to dedicate to fitness, you should focus on walking. When it comes to achieving any health goal, he said, “Sleep and food come first, then walking, and then resistance training.”
The details of my walking routine
What’s in my headphones?
When I first decided that I was really going to commit to getting the most out of my walks, I settled on either following the rules of the Hot Girl Walk and listening to music that helped boost my confidence or listening to a podcast. A podcast works really well because it motivates me to listen to at least one whole episode, ensuring that I walk for well over the 30-minute daily goal.
I haven’t tried a guided walking workout yet, but I’m very intrigued by them and definitely want to try it out. A lot of your favorite fitness apps offer them, and Apple Fitness+ even offers walking workouts narrated by celebrities (including Dolly Parton, Nick Jonas, Misty Copeland, and many more).
My favorite playlists and podcasts:
Time and distance
I don’t focus strictly on numbers; instead, I try to walk for as long as what makes me feel the best. I would say that I normally walk at least two or three miles, mostly because I genuinely enjoy it. If I’m listening to a podcast, my walks tend to be at least 45 minutes, but I sometimes walk up to an hour.
At first, I just didn’t think I had enough time in the day to walk for very long, but the more I did it, the longer my walks became. I began to love walking new routes, finding new playlists, and catching up on my favorite podcasts while I walked.
How I fit it into my routine
Incorporating regular exercise works best for me when I don’t force myself to stick to a particular schedule. I know that having a set routine works really well for some people, but I personally need the flexibility of just fitting it in whenever I can depending on the day. I often find that if I do try to stick to something specific (for example, getting up before work every day and working out), I tire myself out and feel defeated and less motivated when I miss a day.
Instead, I do whatever my day allows. Sometimes I do get up early and fit in a walk before work, sometimes I take a break from working from home and go for a walk during the day, and sometimes I don’t walk until dusk (I think sunset walks are underrated). I listen to my body, and because walking really does reduce my stress and anxiety levels, I take a walk when I feel like it’ll benefit me most.
It’s also important to note that I started walking regularly in early spring and live in Chicago, so the weather was unpredictable. If it’s raining or too cold, walking indoors on a treadmill is great too! I use those times to challenge myself with different incline levels and interval workouts.
Why it works for me
Although walking as a workout might give off old-lady-in-a-walking-club vibes, I genuinely think it has benefitted me more than any other exercise I’ve tried. Taking a long walk makes me feel less stressed, it boosts my energy and mood, clears my mind, and it actually burns a fair number of calories.
I sometimes find it hard to actually get out the door (as I do with any workout), but once I return to my apartment, I feel 10 times better than when I left. I also enjoy the time to myself to think through big decisions or stress points in my life, practice gratitude, manifest positive changes for myself, and disconnect for a bit. Oh, and the people-and-dog-watching is always enjoyable.
I try to supplement my walks with other workouts as well when I can—such as strength training, pilates, or yoga—but as I mentioned, I don’t force myself to do anything in particular. I think the flexibility in this routine and my commitment to truly listen to my body have helped me actually enjoy exercising.
So if you’re like me and have been struggling to find a workout that you enjoy, I challenge you to lace up those sneakers, put your headphones in, strap on a fanny pack, and start walking for at least 30 minutes per day. The benefits go far beyond just physical, so you might just find your new favorite activity.
Products that have elevated my walks
Belt bags are so popular and for good reason. They fit everything you would need for a long walk, but they aren’t too bulky. Plus, they add a little element of chic-ness to your walking outfit.
19 colors available
Mara Phone Sling
I love this bag for when I really don’t need to take much on my walk. It’s designed to fit your cell phone, and then it has card slots so you can carry just the essentials. It even has a chapstick loop, which I really appreciate.
7 colors available
Hoka One One
Bondi 8 Sneaker
After much deliberation, I decided to purchase these shoes. They were an investment for me, but it has definitely paid off. Hoka One One sneakers are designed for running and walking, and this particular pair is ultra-cushioned and so comfortable. Is it crazy to say these literally motivate me to workout?
6 colors available
If you need a more budget-friendly pair of sneakers, these are a great option. I’ve owned Ryka shoes in the past, and they treated me well. Plus, how cute is this colorway?
5 colors available
Athletic Cushion Comfort Quarter Socks
This might seem weird, but trust me on this: You need the right pair of socks for a long walk. I love these because they’re cushioned but don’t make my feet sweat, and the quarter-length prevents any rubbing from the back of a shoe.
7 styles available
Obé x Bala Bangles
Ankle/Wrist Weighted Bangles
If you really want to get the most out of a walking workout, ankle weights add that little extra something that takes it to the next level. Plus, I seriously can’t get over how cute these Obé x Bala Bangles are!
PSA Square Sunglasses
I bought these sunglasses at the beginning of the summer, and they’re seriously the only ones I’ve been wearing. They’re perfect for walks for two reasons: 1) They don’t get stuck in your hair when you put them on your head and 2) Nobody can see your eyes through them (meaning they’re perfect for people-watching).
Silicone AirPods Case with Rosegold Keychain
Not only is this AirPods case cute, I’ve found it extremely functional (and it helps you not mix up your AirPods with your roommate or partner’s). I previously owned a case without a keychain, but I found that I was wanting to be able to hook it to things. This is perfect for hooking to my belt bag.
30+ colors available
Source: Cosmo Politian