Tips to Start Walking Every Day for Your Mental Health
Near the middle of December, most of us realize it’s going to be a busy month. Along with the fact that there is usually lots of extra food and goodies around during the holidays, most of us need some way to stay on track with exercise. Especially come January, most of us need a solution.
My solution? A 30 day walking challenge. While this is perfect for the start of the year, it can really be used anytime you feel the need to get more exercise.
While my favorite are the workouts over at Fitness Blender, sometimes it’s nice to do something more meditative like walking. You can also pair walking with listening to podcasts, watching TV, or listening to music.
What’s the best way to do a challenge? To do it 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 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. (Or you could just walk outdoors if you choose!)
So – I embarked on my goal of walking for 30 minutes every day each day until the end of the month 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? Walking is addictive. You might find that you go past the 30 days and don’t want to stop. Just make sure that if you keep up your daily walking, that you make time for other workouts too. Everything in balance.
(Want to hear the story of someone who’s done a 30 day walking challenge? Watch the video below)
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, half marathon, and even a 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.
Below I’ve listed for you some tips if you want to start your own 30-day walking challenge.
Mark 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. (Update: I’m doing this starting mid-January in 2020!)
Plan Where You Will Walk
- Merax Folding Treadmill
- Ancheer Under Desk 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill
- NordicTrack Treadmill Includes 1-month iFit Membership
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. I’ve learned over the years that it’s better to choose higher quality shoes that will last longer and make running easier. If you end up doing road races this is especially important. My favorite brand is Saucony, but I’ve listed some options for you below.
- Adidas Women’s Cloudfoam Pure Running Shoe
- Asics Women’s Gel-Quantum 90 Running Shoe
- Saucony Women’s Cohesion 10 Running Shoe
Drink your Water
Have your water bottle filled and ready to go. It’s important to stay hydrated while you walk and also throughout the day. I try to make sure I am drinking 2 litres of water per day (that’s about 8 US cups), because it’s good both for your mental health as well as your physical health. I’ve listed below some popular water bottle options to consider. In our family we favor the Contigo bottles.
- Contigo Autospout Ashland Water Bottle
- Contigo Jackson Reusable Water Bottle in Greyed Jade
- Contigo Stainless Steel Water Bottle
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.
Related Articles about Exercise and Anxiety
- Laughter Yoga for Anxiety
- 5 Mental Benefits fo Using a Fitness Planner
- How to Plan a DIY Weekend Mental Health Retreat