Is it worth it to walk for fitness? The Ultimate Guide

Yes. I walk for fitness every day. I now hate to miss a day of walking. Here are some fast, easy ways to help you make walking each day something you won’t want to miss.

I spent 12 hours researching ways to make walking more likely to help you meet your health and fitness goals.

Most articles about walking for fitness focus on non-essential details without providing actionable steps. I set out to fix that.

Here are some tools to get you walking for fitness::

My story with walking for fitness
Make walking for fitness obvious
Make walking for fitness attractive
Make walking for fitness satisfying
The wrap on walking for fitness

Always check with your doctor and medical/healthcare professionals before starting a new fitness routine.

My story with walking for fitness

What would you say if I told you I lost 60lbs in 130 days simply by walking?

I said simply – not easily.

During that time, I also ate and drank absurd amounts.

As embarrassing as it is, the following was my daily diet during that time:

  • 1 Cliff bar
  • 4 pop tarts
  • 8 granola bars
  • ¾  large bag of chips
  • 2-3 large tortillas
  • 1 packet of tuna
  • Occasionally, I sprinkled substantial quantities of spinach on my tuna wrap
  • 2 packs of ramen noodles
  • 2 cheese strings
  • 1 Snickers bar
Check out those sock-tans!

One or two times a week I also drank bad calories, ate ice cream, more chips, pastries, bacon, sausage, burgers, fries, and other unhealthy things.

I consumed thousands upon thousands of empty calories while still losing 60lbs in 4.5 months.

What was the secret?

I walked a lot.

I walked the equivalent of about 102 marathons in 130 days on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I walked through the most beautiful mountain ranges, deserts, forests, and highways (but only when the trail was closed due to fires).

Although it had been years since I had gone for a run, one day I tried it out. I ran 10 miles and to my surprise, I found it easy.

Wanting to walk for fitness without dropping everything?

If you want to walk to improve your fitness without quitting your job – that works well too.

Why not plan to make a walking habit work for you based on your unique interests and needs?

James Clear, the bestselling author of Atomic Habits, explains if you are looking to start a habit like walking, you’ll want to make it obvious, easy, attractive, and satisfying.

A box full of calories to fuel my walk

Make walking for fitness obvious

To give yourself the best chance of sticking to your habit, you’ll want to make your walking-for-fitness journey as easy to start as it is to sustain.

Aim to define a seamless routine. It might look something like the following:

Imagine – it is 6:30 am on a regular Monday morning. You stop your alarm.

Unlike your previous self, you get up quickly.

Next thing you know you’re smiling to yourself – you’ve already been walking briskly for 20 minutes.

Even though you were half asleep, your simple morning routine has had you walking for 30 minutes every day for the last 2 years.

You smile to yourself knowing that with this simple routine, you have walked the equivalent distance of a trip from New York City to New Orleans – and back!

Better yet, you realize you have greatly improved your mood, confidence, fitness, and health …and it is all being done on autopilot.

If this were possible, would you commit to reading and implementing the action steps in this article?

Try Habit-Stacking

In order to make your habit hard to forget, do yourself a favor by using ‘habit stacking’ (Clear, 2018).

Habit stacking involves tying your new habit to your already established habits or routines (Duhigg, 2012).

Your habit-stack might look something like: “When I stop my alarm, I will get up, get dressed, put on my shoes, and walk for 30 minutes.”

Make walking for fitness easy

To break the above habit down, you might make it easy by designing your habit with some of the following strategies:

Clear (2018) suggests breaking your habit down into segments that take 2 minutes or less. This helps make it more likely to sustain this behavior for the long term.

  • When you first start out, your habit might be as simple as putting on your walking shoes. Starting is usually the hardest part. Give yourself permission to simply get ready to walk. From there you can gradually ramp up your walking habit.
  • To make it even easier on yourself, consider placing your shoes and favorite walking outfit in that super handy location the night before. This way you can conveniently get walking with fewer obstacles and annoyances.
  • You may also want to use a pedometer (step counter). If you have a smartphone or smartwatch, you likely already have one. If not, it might be worthwhile to invest in.

After conducting a randomized controlled trial, Kolt et al. (2012) explains in the National Library of Medicine that people walked  more for leisure when using a pedometer [1].

Similarly, Tudor-Locke et al. (2014) found that people who used pedometers walked more and saw improved blood pressure [2].

Make walking for fitness attractive

By pairing your walking habit with something you love to do, you may find yourself more excited to jump in.

If you enjoy connecting with friends on the phone, consider a ‘walk n’ talk’ with earbuds.

If shopping is more your thing, perhaps you can reward yourself with purchases for sticking with your habit. For example, after 7 days of walking for 2 minutes, you might buy yourself some new shoes, new workout clothes, or Bluetooth earbuds.

Personally, I love learning. Listening to audiobooks on the move makes walking super compelling for me.

If you have a treadmill, watching addicting shows can make walking pretty fun too!

Love saving money? Walking instead of driving can really add up.

Dare to walk to work? Kitchen’s  et al. (2011), research found that people who walk partway to work tend to be healthier and more physically active than those who drive the entire way [3]

Transportation is among the highest expenses for many families. A colleague of mine realized that by walking instead of busing to work, he was saving over $80 a month. He’s since vowed to spend that money on healthier food for his kids.

Other couples have transitioned to life as a one-car family. This switch can save couples upwards of $15, 000 per year (think insurance, gas,  car payments, maintenance/repair costs, and the price of a new vehicle).

Love going green?

I consider walking to work a quadruple win – it’s a win for the planet, for your health, for your savings account, and for your loved ones.

The air temperature was -31 Fahrenheit (-35 degrees Celsius) when I randomly saw my wife, Megan on our commute home from work.

Creating an accountability group can also make sticking to your walking habit much more appealing.

You might want to try something like the steps below to get your accountability group started:

  • Choose 1-3 people who are also committed to getting healthier.
  • Start a group chat and declare to your group that you will carry out your walking habit every day for the next 7, 30, 60, or 90 days.
  • Ask them to check in on you if you stop posting photos of yourself walking each day. This will help you take ownership of your new habit.
  • Encourage and challenge your teammates to continue posting evidence of them tackling habits.
  • Share how you will reward yourself with photos of those memories with your group too!
  • Bonus schedule extra ‘oomph’ to own your goals. For example, after 3 months I sent money to my accountabila-buddy. If I stuck to my habit according to my plan, he was to order me these expensive shoes in my size. If I gave up, he was to order the shoes for my ‘frenemy’ in his size.

Make walking for fitness satisfying

There are few things I find more satisfying than a dip in a cold mountain lake after a sweaty day of walking

Life strategists, Cloe Madanes and Tony Robbins explain that we will be more likely to stick with habits that we know satisfy our human needs for:

  • Certainty
  • Variety
  • Significance
  • Connection and love
  • Growth
  • Contribution

How might walking meet your needs?

To meet your need for certainty, you might want to hang a poster of all the benefits that come with walking on your door. This can remind you of how your new habit is setting you up for a fantastic future.

Why should you walk for fitness?

Multiple research studies demonstrate that walking leads to important health benefits.

For example, walking:

  • Improves sleep quality for a wide range of people [4]
  • Leads to a higher quality of life [5]
  • Is low impact and provides little risk of injury  [6] [7]
  • Enhances balance and coordination  [8]
  • Improves cardiovascular health [9]
  • May help prevent osteoporosis and improve bone health [10]
  • Reduces blood pressure  [11] [12]
  • Helps with managing depression  [13]
  • Decreases risks for type 2 diabetes [14]
  • Leads to healthy fat loss and weight management  [15] [16]
  • Improves cholesterol levels  [17]
  • increased longevity [18]
  • Can reduce stress levels [19]

Video “10 benefits of walking”

By choosing to walk in beautiful areas where you feel safe, you might simultaneously meet your needs for:

  • Certainty as you start feeling calmer and assured walking by water or green spaces [20]
  • Variety by taking in the joy of the environment and the varied landscapes.
  • Significance in realizing that you are upping your awesomeness by taking care of you
  • Connection and love – why not replace the odd sitting-social event with a walk with friends! Or you may think of being more active and playing with loved ones.
  • Growth – by thinking about all the ways you’re improving with this habit. A smartwatch or smartphone can also help with quantifying your improvements. Seeing all the calories you burnt and the number of steps you took can provide extra motivation.
  • Contribution – your new active lifestyle might inspire your friends, children, or others to join you on your health adventure.

To make your walking habit feel even more relevant and satisfying, you may want to reflect on why it’s important for you to stick with it.

Is walking sitting there on your ‘to-do’ list, giving you the stink-eye? Try this.

  • If I’ve been avoiding a new habit, one psych-trick I like to use is to remind myself that I’m only committing to start it. I don’t have to actually go for a walk.
  • Once I start walking, I then do a  reframe. I might say something like, “I’m not going for a walk – I’m setting myself up for a healthy, happy life of adventure.” Insert whatever phrase might give you that boost.

Once walking has become a habit you may want to refine your posture, speed, intensity, and duration.

Soon enough you may just find yourself speed walking up hills and feeling great!

The wrap on walking for fitness

Walking is an awesome way for enhancing mental, physical, and emotional fitness.

How will you make walking for fitness obvious, easy, attractive, and satisfying?

Action step: Use the above points as a guide, and make and start your walking-for-fitness plan right now!!!

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