How to Walk for Fun and Profit

In the United States, we value our cars. We've become a nation of drivers. It rarely occurs to us that walking might be an option, even for short journeys. One-quarter of all automobile trips in the U.S. are less than a mile in length; forty percent are less than two miles (one source of many). Looked at another way: of all trips less than a mile in length, eighty percent are made by car (source).

I know a man who drives to work, even though he lives half a mile from his office. Why does he drive? Because he may need the car for some errand during the day. How many errands did he run during the workday last week? None. The week before? None.

I have a family member who will spend time circling a parking lot, looking for the perfect space. In the time it takes her to find these utopic spots, she could usually have parked farther from the entrance and burned some calories by walking a few hundred feet to the store.

Another friend lives just over a mile from her brother. She never walks to see him, but always drives. Why? Because walking would take too long. (The drive takes five minutes because of the road layout; walking takes less than twenty minutes.)

Walking offers tremendous health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help:

  • Reduce your risk of heart attack.
  • Manage your blood pressure.
  • Reduce your risk of developing diabetes (or help you to manage an existing condition).
  • Manage your weight.
  • Manage stress and boost spirits.

(Read more in the Mayo Clinic's Walking for Fitness guide.)

Many fitness programs encourage a regimen of 10,000 steps per day. When I'm sedentary, I get fewer than 2,000 steps per day. How do I know? I track my progress with a pedometer. They're cheap and effective. I use this model, which costs less than five bucks. I covet this deluxe model, which costs less than twenty.

But walking doesn't just help you stay fit. It can also help you achieve other goals:

  • The average cost of operating a vehicle is 52.2 cents. Walking is free.
  • A regular walking regimen can take less time than going to the gym. And there are no membership fees.
  • When I walk to the grocery store, I buy much less. A car effectively gives me unlimited carrying capacity. When I have to haul each item home by hand, I'm much more particular about what I purchase.
  • Walking helps you become more aware of your surroundings. I see a lot more of my neighborhood when I walk.
  • The only pollutant you produce when walking is sweat.

Perhaps, like me, you want to walk, but find it easy to rationalize driving. Or you're procrastinating the start of a fitness program. Or you're not even sure how to begin. Here are a few ways to make walking easier and more appealing:

  • Walk with a spouse or friend.
  • Walk your dog.
  • Listen to an audiobook.
  • Count your steps.
  • Observe the world around you: the plants, the birds, the beasts.
  • Greet every person you meet. (Yes, this sounds cheesy, but it's surprisingly fun.)
  • Have a destination in mind: the coffee stand, the park, a friend's house.

In time, you may even come to like walking. Perhaps you'll begin taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Maybe you'll park farther from the entrance to the mall, your office, the library.

Here's an excellent guide to starting a walking program. For more on this subject, check Could you walk or bike to more places? at Money and Values.

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Brian Restuccia
Brian Restuccia
14 years ago

I hate to ruin your reliance on your ‘cheap’ pedometer, but I thought you may like to know that many are actually very inaccurate.
http://www.diet-blog.com/archives/2006/06/21/pedometers_are_they_accurate.php

J.D.
J.D.
14 years ago

@Brian You’re correct, in general. Cheap pedometers are often very inaccurate. Their mechanisms for counting steps are sometimes crazy. (I once had a pedometer that would count ten or fifteen steps when I slid my office chair across the room!) However, I’ve been happy with the cheap model I listed from Sportline. For me, at least, it’s step count matches my own within 1%, even after a three mile walk. (Yes, I’ve spent an hour counting my steps before. All for the sake of science.) Of course, because it’s cheap, it’s very possible that another instance of the same pedometer… Read more »

Kira
Kira
14 years ago

I purposefully chose an apartment that was walking distance to work. Everybody complains about the parking and people spend more time circling around the garage than I do walking there. Then as soon as I got a driver’s license, everybody was asking me if I was going to get a car and start driving to work. Why on earth would I want to when they complain about it so much? My coworkers make parking sound like dental work.

Skor Grimm
Skor Grimm
14 years ago

I know a man who drives to work, even though he lives half a mile from his office.

Holy crowly! I live 14 miles from work, and I ride my bike as often as possible (no less than 60% of the time). Living less than a mile from work would be like living in a dream world! What a waste!

Canadian
Canadian
13 years ago

Good tips! Walking is great, I love it. It allows you to combine exercise and transportation. (This is easier for me because I am car-free anyway.) I have the same Omron pedometer you have and it’s the best one I’ve tried (my previous 3 have all failed me). To add to my step count, I walk up six flights of stairs at work. Since I’ve been walking so much and using the pedometer to make sure I get 10,000 steps, my blood pressure has gone down!

dav467
dav467
13 years ago

I, too have made walking a priority in recent years. Even took a job that requires I be forced to walk DAILY. Not bad being paid to excercise. Back in the beginning, I quickly realized that using a tape starting with a slower beat , then escalating the pace with faster music helped. Then came the clothes and shoes. Its all in the shoes- nothing else matters. Be it arch supports – whatever- use whatever makes you feel like you are walking on clouds. Without this, you will fail. Often cheap box store shoes are the best. Get a pair… Read more »

dav467
dav467
13 years ago

I used to sit and look at a nearby hilly slope and one day decided to attempt to climb it. FIrst attempt, failure- half way. Over time – I made it there taking one day at a time always adding a bit more distance. Now I can walk well over 9-11 miles depending on terrain without concern. This was all due to living with a diabetic who refused to excercise or do much for self-help. Perhaps it was an anger thing- perhaps frustration- but it all worked out. If you stay at it long enough, you will actually miss it… Read more »

BillinDetroit
BillinDetroit
13 years ago

Some time back, when I was working on quitting smoking, I used to tell myself that I could have a cigarette when I came back from a brisk 1-mile walk. Oddest thing … I usually forgot about the cigarette before I got back and I never actually wanted it badly enough to light up. That was 9 years ago. I still haven’t had that cigarette. IIRC, on one occasion I did still want it when I got home. So I went for another walk. On another occasion, when my weight had gotten out of hand, I used to permit myself… Read more »

Tony
Tony
7 years ago

I’ve been using my Pedometer to walk each and everyday!

SJ Scott
SJ Scott
7 years ago

You are so right on the need to walk more.

The “for profit” idea in your title got me thinking about a cool tool, also.

The Striiv is a pedometer that has walking games and social interaction.

The “for profit” part is that when you reach certain milestones the company and their sponsors make charitable contributions in your name.

Pretty cool, huh!

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