If getting in shape always seems to be something you’ll start tomorrow (or January 1), it’s time to change things up. These 11 walking resolutions are easy to commit to and are healthy habits that will give you a head start on reaching your fitness goals.
Instead of setting lofty and often unreasonable goals, start small. Work on increasing your walking duration to at least 30 minutes per day, which can lower your risk for disease, improve your mood and help you lose weight. After a few weeks, you can increase two or three of your weekly walks to up your step count even more and increase your calorie burn as your cardio improves. But, no matter how far you walk, the point is to get into a routine of daily exercise.
Walking is one of the best (and easiest) types of exercise you can do to help you lose weight. However, to keep your motivation up, it’s important to set a realistic weight-loss goal. Ideally, you should have smaller goals that can be measured and are time-bound, which leads to an overall bigger goal. Here are some tips to keep you on track:
- Focus on nutrition: Eating in a calorie deficit is important for weight-loss, but you also need to properly fuel your body for exercise. Start by keeping track of your daily caloric intake with an app like MyFitnessPal to notice trends and see where improvements can be made.
- Learn the correct technique: While walking can seem simple enough, you’ll need to use good walking technique to go further and faster. This ultimately helps you burn more calories.
- Move your body daily: Try to find various forms of exercise you enjoy and make it a goal to move your body every day. It doesn’t always have to be intense, either — yoga and swimming are great low-impact complements to a walking routine. On days when you can’t get outdoors, a quick bodyweight circuit helps you build strength and work toward your goals.
To progress your level of fitness, you’ll need to have a plan. Instead of just heading out for a walk without a goal in mind, making a weekly walking plan can help you to get the most out of each of your workouts. Including long walks, shorter interval sessions, and even a few strength training or yoga sessions can ensure you’re including variety, working on your weaknesses, and keeping things fun. This also provides a way to track your weekly mileage so you can compare each week to the next and continue to build fitness while minimizing the risk for injury.
Chances are, things are going to come up from time to time that keep you from heading outdoors for a walk. Whether it’s the cold this winter or a busy schedule with the kids, setting up a workout space indoors is a great goal that can help you avoid skipping workouts. This can be as simple as a yoga mat and a few hand weights or as complex as a dedicated space in the garage with a treadmill and walking workout videos.
A dedicated training partner can be motivating and keep you on track on the days when you don’t feel like exercising. Plus, it’s a great way to be social (and yes, you can even walk with a friend virtually). Consider joining a walking club, plogging group or enlisting your spouse, best friend or other family members. Bonus: Your dog counts, too.
While small goals add up over time, it’s always good to have a goal that pushes you beyond what you think you might be capable of, like a walking event. From 10Ks to the marathon, there is something out there for everyone and many are virtual right now so you can do them anywhere.
If you want to improve your walking performance so you can increase your cadence and distance (while also preventing injury), you’ll need to strengthen muscle groups like the core and glutes that are commonly neglected during walking. A resolution that focuses on yoga, bodyweight exercises at home or hitting the weights in the gym twice a week helps you get in better walking shape and be healthier overall.
Not all of your walks need to be dedicated workouts. In fact, it’s all those short 10-minute walks that can end up making a big difference in your daily step count, calories burned and overall health. As an added benefit, studies show reducing sedentary behaviors can also decrease the risk of cardiovascular-related illnesses and help you lose weight faster. Every two hours, make it a goal to get up and move around for at least 5 minutes.
While a dedicated walking routine can certainly have many physical benefits, it also provides psychological benefits that shouldn’t be discounted. To reduce stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms and improve your mood, try mindful walking. Once or twice a week, make it a goal to get rid of distractions (i.e. ditch your phone) and concentrate instead on a more meditative experience while you walk. Bonus points if you explore nature more on these walks.
One of the big problems with any fitness routine is boredom. Doing the same workout in the same location day after day can eventually become tiresome and mentally challenging. That’s why getting out of the neighborhood and exploring a new trail or park is important to stay fresh and keep your routine exciting. While it might not always be possible, when you have a little more time, try to head to a location you’ve never been before for your workout. It not only makes the time fly by, but you’ll also keep your muscles from adapting to the same terrain and get in a great workout.
Even though walking is a low-impact activity, a big part of being able to walk every day as you increase distance and intensity is recovering properly. While stretching and icing sore joints are certainly part of the equation, one of the most overlooked aspects of recovery is making sure you get plenty of high-quality sleep nightly. Inadequate sleep can negatively affect mental and physical health, increasing stress hormones, elevating your risk for obesity, and suppressing your immune system. Research also shows lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain. If you aren’t doing so already, make it a point to shut off your devices an hour before bed and sleep for at least 7–8 hours each night.
Originally published December 2019, updated with additional reporting
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.