If you are wanting to start to exercise, but don’t know where to start, there are plenty of options. One of my favourites is walking. I like it as it is an easy place for most people to start. It is low cost – free if you already have comfortable shoes and clothes for walking, and no new skills are required. It is also a gateway to more challenging exercise once you start to feel the benefits of moving more in the fresh air.
Of course, you don’t have to be outside if you are restricted in some way to remaining indoors. My aunt, who lived to be in her nineties was active most of her life, she played tennis, golf and ran around after her seven children. When she could no longer play golf, or head out of the house on her own, she would walk around inside the house consciously exercising. She inspired me, as she found a form of exercise which she could still do with independence.
The trick with lifestyle change is to find a way to do what you can within the constraints of your life commitments and physical ability – that’s what my aunt achieved. When it comes to developing your plan to walk regularly for exercise, it pays to plan what that might look like for you. I suggest starting with focussing on your reason for wanting to exercise more. You could ask yourself the following questions:
- What advantages are there for me for not exercising?
- What advantages are there for me for exercising?
- How might my health look in five years’ time if I continue not to exercise?
- How might my health improve if I do take up walking for exercise?
- How does my lack of exercise impact me now?
- How does it impact those around me?
- How might taking up walking now feel?
- How might those around me feel if they see me taking up walking to improve my health?
Once you have considered the questions above, you might want to think about when, where and how you might get started. It is good to consider, starting small – more success comes from building on small goals, than setting goals that are over challenging.
- Frequency, for example once, twice or three times a week.
- Time of day.
- Duration – five, ten, fifteen minutes.
- Set a time to review how you are going a few weeks down the track, at that point you may want to adjust your plan up or down depending on what is working well and what isn’t.
- Your local neighbourhood.
- On your way to work – you could park further away from the office or the station and walk the remainder of the way.
- Walk to your colleague’s desk instead of picking up the phone, take the stairs at work, or get out of the lift a few floors earlier and walk up the stairs from there.
- Walk the kids to school.
- Park, garden or sporting oval.
- Your local shop – either walk there or spend some extra time walking around.
- Walk the dog, or even the cat.
- What obstacles can you see – how might you overcome these?
- Who can help?
- What distance will you walk?
It can be helpful to engage a friend to be your walking buddy. This way you can help each other to improve your fitness and be accountable to each other. It’s one thing to lie in bed and decide not to walk when that decision only impacts you, it’s different if your friend is waiting for you to join them. If you don’t have a walking buddy, even telling someone else about your exercise intention can be positive for your motivation.
While you are walking, don’t forget to look for things to appreciate, the fresh air, the gardens you pass, the neighbours or colleagues you see, the feeling of doing something positive for your health and well-being.
Having a plan, whether detailed or broad supports creating a new habit. When developing new habits, be prepared to adjust those aspects which do not work for you. Look at it as an experiment to find out what works best for you. Most of all, enjoy your walking and all the benefits it can bring.