Not only is walking an excellent low-impact exercise, it can also help you feel good in more ways than just physically.
Here are seven tips for how to turn walking into an activity that boosts your mental, emotional, social and spiritual well-being.
1. Walk more mindfully.
“It isn’t a matter of how far you go,” says the Good Samaritan Society’s Bill Kubat, “but that you walk with awareness that we are all mind, body and soul all of the time.”
Be aware of each step, each breath, as you walk, Bill advises.
Notice the sights and sounds around you. Notice how you feel — are you impatient when you stop for traffic, for instance, or glad to have a pause?
2. Make it meditative.
Use your walk as time to reflect and grow closer to God.
“Anchor it with a Bible verse,” Bill suggests. “Just repeat the verse — for example, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Hebrews 3:15) — and let the Spirit guide the rest of your thoughts and walking time.
"If your mind wanders, as mine often does, that’s all right. Just keep coming back to the verse.”
3. Take it outside.
Studies have shown that regular walks, especially those that take you out into nature, can relieve stress and ease depression and anxiety.
4. Pray along the way.
Go through the names on your prayer list. Say a prayer for the people in each house you pass.
Give thanks for the blessings you encounter on your walk — the sun on your face, a sidewalk cleared of snow, chickadees calling in the trees, a friendly pup.
5. Go with others.
Building relationships with family, friends, colleagues and community members enhances social and emotional well-being.
Walking and talking together is a fun and easy way to do that.
6. Try a new route.
Your brain needs exercise, too. New experiences keep you mentally engaged.
7. Step out for a cause.
It feels good to use your gifts to help others.
How about taking part in a walk that raises money for a cause you care about?
Or try Charity Miles, a free smartphone app that donates money (from corporate sponsors) to a charity of your choice for every mile you walk.