I’ve loved walking since I first visited the Lake District aged 10. The revelation that my own two feet could take me to the top of fells and mountains, through valleys and woodland, was amazing to me. I could do anything and go anywhere just using the body I already had. In last week’s #PrettyHealthyProject post I set a goal for this week: to take at least 10,000 steps every day this week, keeping count with my FitBit. It was a really interesting challenge and much, much harder than I anticipated, but it really has made a difference.
I got my FitBit Flex for Christmas last year and have worn it ever since. To begin with I just found it really interesting to see how many (or, rather, how few) steps I took each day. After a few weeks of tracking my everyday activity I started working out where I could make changes to up the number of steps and active minutes to the recommended 10,000 and 30 respectively.
At university this was actually pretty easy: it was a walk of exactly one mile from my house to campus, so I started to take the bus less and less and made the effort to walk instead. If I walked to and from campus twice in a day I was guaranteed to get more than 10,000 steps. If I didn’t need to make the walk I’d try and get to the gym or for a run, or just a walk around town. Even when things got difficult later on into term and the mere thought of running or the gym made me nauseous, I kept walking. It always helped me to feel better.
Back home, my habits have slipped. I don’t have a reason to walk, mostly because when I go out it’s to places that require a drive upwards of 20 or 30 minutes. Even going somewhere new for a walk means driving there. Not being a driver myself thus puts me in a tricky position. But I miss walking; the 20 minute walk to campus gave me purpose and fresh air and a raised heart rate without feeling uncomfortable.
For me, 10,000 steps equates to more or less four miles. I didn’t quite take this into account when I set my challenge, and I soon realised that getting in all those steps was going to be much harder than I realised. In actual fact, I only managed the full 10,000 on one day this week – Saturday. Unfortunately, I can’t include Sunday in my tally as my FitBit ran out of battery without my realising; my tally for Saturday is actually lower than the exact number as the battery ran out at some point in the evening.
At the beginning of the week I made a concentrated effort to go out for a walk around my village. My sister accompanied me on the Monday and we had a lovely time looking for Instagram pictures and clambering over haybales. On Tuesday I went out alone for an hour, exploring all the little footpaths around my village; I know them well, but it’s a while since I’ve wandered them. Finally on Wednesday, Mum and I took the path to the Common and around the woodland there (we also put together a flatpack bookshelf and swam a kilometre that day!).
On Thursday I headed into the city, making the mistake of thinking that this activity would suffice – it actually ended up being one of my lowest-scoring days – and on Friday I felt too unwell to do much until late in the afternoon, hence the burst of activity on Saturday which included two walks to make up!
Fitness blogs tend to focus on running, HIIT or heavy-weight workouts at the gym. Those things are all great, and I hope that one day I can get back into doing and loving all of them, but they just aren’t right for me at this point. Walking, however, is – and it could be right for you, too. Even though I didn’t make the 10,000 on most of the days, I found that taking the time to walk around my village or the Common had a big impact:
Walking for physical health
It might not necessarily seem like hard work, but walking is brilliant exercise and doing it regularly will improve your fitness. When I thought about my walks as exercise or workouts, I found myself making more of an effort to eat better so I had the right kind of energy and didn’t undo my work. What’s more, I found myself going to sleep much more quickly, and sleeping more soundly than before.
Going out with my sister in the countryside and taking cute pictures together left us giggling hysterically – any time spent with her before she leaves for San Francisco in a couple of weeks is valuable – and exploring with my mum gave us a chance to talk and go somewhere new. Walking is the cheapest way to spend time with the people important to you whilst being active. Walking more challenging terrain (which there isn’t much of in Norfolk!) can improve your relationships even further!
Being by myself in the fresh air was as much an opportunity to relax as it was to exercise. I used the time to appreciate the countryside around me; we’re in full flow of barley harvest time at the moment which is always pretty special. When I returned from a walk, my mood was always improved and it stayed that way for the rest of the day, too. Being on foot gives you a new perspective on views you’d normally only glimpse from a car, and it can give you a much greater respect for nature and wildlife, or, if you’re in a city, the architecture. Just remember to look up.
Last week really showed me that exercise doesn’t have to be hard or painful to be immediately beneficial – in fact, I believe it’s much better to start slow with a gentle walking routine. My guess is that if I keep walking regularly, I’ll start to want to go further or faster which might eventually be just the push I need to want to go back to running.
I’ve felt the benefits of walking so much that I’m keen to introduce more exercise. Alongside continuing my efforts from previous #PrettyHealthyProject goals, my challenge this week is to continue to try to get 10,000 steps a day – I want to keep trying until I’m managing it regularly and averaging 70,000 steps a week – but to add in three different types of intentional exercise as well. I’ll talk more about what I mean by ‘intentional’ exercise, as well as how I’ve got on, next week – but remember to follow along with what I’m up to on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to tag your own posts as well!
Do you walk for exercise? How do you incorporate different types of exercise into your day-to-day routine? Let me know in the comments!