Tips on How to Start Walking Every Day for Your Mental Health
Near the middle of December 2018, I realized it was going to be a busy month. Keeping that in mind, along with the fact that there would be lots of extra food and goodies around during the holidays, I decided I needed some way to stay on track with exercise. My solution? A 30 day walking challenge.
While my favorite are the workouts over at Fitnessblender.com, sometimes it can be hard to wrangle time on my computer to fit in a workout. I also tend to do the workouts sporadically (anywhere from zero to 3 times a week on average).
Nope – I needed something easy that I knew I could do every day. I wanted to try out Jerry Seinfeld’s method: don’t break the chain. In a nutshell, this means you start doing something every day and mark off an X on the calendar to show that you did it. Not wanting to break the chain of X’s, you keep doing it.
Since we have a treadmill in our house, I settled on 30 minutes of walking every day. I know – that sounds pretty low key. To make it a bit harder, the walking would be at 3.5 miles per hour with a 2% incline. The incline helps to make it more equivalent to walking outdoors. Which, incidentally, I would prefer to do, but given that it’s winter in Canada, that’s just not possible.
So – I embarked on my goal of walking for 30 minutes every day each day until the end of December. How did I do?
I’m happy to report that on average, I met my walking goals. I did miss a couple of days (Boxing day was one), but I made it up by walking an hour the following day.
And you know what? I’m still walking. I. can’t. stop. I can’t break the chain. It’s a little crazy, but it’s now mid-January, 2019 and I’m still walking. The only problem I’m having now is how to fit in other workouts because really, you can’t just walk all the time. But I’m afraid to stop.
Tips to Do Your Own 30 Day Walking Challenge
Below I’ve listed for you some tips if you want to start your own 30-day walking challenge.
- Mark your progress on a calendar. Though I did not do this, I can see that it would be helpful to actually mark those X’s on the calendar. I kept track in my head instead, but a calendar would make you more accountable.
- Find an accountability partner. Along the lines of accountability, if you’re committing to doing this for a month, try to find someone else to do it with you (either in real life or virtually). You’re more likely to stick to a goal if you’ve told someone else about it and they are doing it with you.
- Choose the right month to do it. I chose December because I felt like it was going to be such a busy month that I needed some way to stay on track and also to manage stress. That month might be different for you.
- Make it interesting. You’re walking. You don’t need it to be boring! Walk with someone or listen to music or a podcast or watch a movie while you walk. My favorites are true crime or inspirational stuff.
- Choose your shoes. Get out your running shoes and leave them on the treadmill or by the door so they will be ready to go. (Don’t be like me and walk in your flip flops half the time – not safe).
- Drink your water. Have your water bottle filled and ready to go. Although diet coke may be a tasty alternative, it’s not going to hydrate you like regular old water.
How Walking Can Help Social Anxiety
How could a 30-day walking challenge help your social anxiety? Let’s break down some of the main ways that this daily dose of exercise might help.
- Exercise releases endorphins, which can help you to feel calm and reduce stress (and anxiety).
- Walking can be a social activity. Even if you start out walking by yourself, you could eventually work your way up to joining a walking group or walking regularly with a friend.
- If you move up from walking to running (or even if you don’t), there are tons of related events that you could attend to challenge your social anxiety (e.g., being in a crowd, walking or running in front of other people). I’ve participated in several runs (5k, 10k, and yes even a half marathon!) and I know that the running community can be very supportive. You might even make a new friend while running a race (I did!)
- Your confidence will increase both from setting a goal and achieving it and also because you are doing something that is good for your health.
- Walking is a bit like meditation. If you find yourself keyed up, anxious, and unable to stop worrying about an upcoming social or performance situation, walking or running is similar to meditation in that it can help to slow down your anxiety. I remember giving a presentation at a conference for work and hitting the treadmill at the hotel for a 5k job to help calm my nerves.
That’s it! Anyone can complete a 30-day walking challenge: you just need to commit and then follow through. Let me know in the comments how you do, I’d love to hear about your progress and success.