Whether it’s the current pandemic or other obligations keeping you away from family and friends this year, it’s still important to connect in meaningful ways during the holidays. Walking is a great way to connect and, if you can’t do it in real life, there’s a slew of options at your fingertips to take virtual walks. By creating virtual walking groups, you can stay active and decrease stress while improving mood levels during this busy time — plus, it knocks down the geographic barriers so you can include more people.
Virtual walks and runs have gained momentum for obvious reasons, and now there are several studies showcasing the potential benefits. For example, a study in the journal Games for Health analyzed the motivational benefits of in-person walking partners, virtual partners and no partners at all. While in-person walking partners offered the greatest benefit, virtual partners offered more motivational and exercise benefits (such as pushing the pace) compared to walking alone.
Developing a virtual exercise routine with your family and friends can be fun, motivating and a great way to spend quality time together as you encourage each other to stay healthy and fit. The good news is today’s technology makes it easier than ever to connect before, during and after your walking workouts.
Group challenges can be fun and are an excellent way to stay motivated — especially if your family is full of competitive people. For example, set a weekly step challenge leading up to the holidays, or see who can get the most steps on a certain day. You can track your steps in an app like MyFitnessPal and set a prize for the winner, such as new workout gear.
It’s possible to get a great walking workout indoors (especially if the weather isn’t great), where you can set up a live video chat via FaceTime or Zoom and participate together. Try incorporating sets of stairs with bodyweight exercises or follow the same workout on your respective TVs.
Start a group call before you head out the door and chat as a family for a half-hour as you complete your walk. You can take turns sharing funny stories or jokes, playing your favorite music or games like I Spy. Even if the call is a quick one, you’ll get a boost of social wellness by checking in on each other.
Want to see who can walk the most miles in a week or month around the holidays? You can set up a distance challenge on the MyFitnessPal Message boards and use it to connect with a private group of family and friends. What we like about this option is you can each talk and relay messages whenever you have the time, which works well for people on different schedules or in different time zones.
While social media can get a bad rap, it can also be used to motivate and inspire. Setting up a family and friends Facebook group or Instagram with a walking focus allows you to post pictures of your daily walks for the group and send each other messages that relay encouragement and help keep everyone accountable. Consider coming up with fun family hashtags, which can help you sort the photos.
Some people need a more structured training plan to be consistent and follow through with pre-set goals. Set up a few weeks of walking workouts on a spreadsheet and share it via email or Google Docs. Include goals to reach (such as step counts, distance, time, or weight loss) and have everyone input their progress each week. This helps you all feel more connected and part of a team. Don’t forget to celebrate the wins along the way.
If training for a walking or running event is the type of motivation you need to stay fit, the good news is you still have plenty of options available. Because of the pandemic, race organizers have shifted away from in-person events and started to set up more and virtual walking and running events instead. Have family members select a local turkey trot in their area or another fun holiday event like a Jingle Bell 5K. Afterward, you can share photos of T-shirts and finishing medals to feel connected and celebrate as a family.
One of the best things about workout partners is the conversations you have post-walk at your local coffee shop. While this might not currently be an option, don’t let the lack of proximity keep you from bonding and sharing time together. End your walking sessions at a specific time with a post-workout coffee chat on Zoom or another similar app. It’s a great way to keep the good, positive workout vibes going.
To become more active, try setting a simple goal to increase (and track) your daily steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app and choose a 28-day step plan to learn tips to boost your activity.