Here’s How Taking a 15-Minute Walk Every Day Changed My Life

Photo: Stocksy / BONNINSTUDIO
I've wanted to be consistent with my walking again for quite some time. I'm not the best at keeping up with an exercise routine, but I know the benefits of walking are innumerable, from improving your heart health to boosting your mood. Plus, you don't need any equipment, and it feels easy enough when the weather's nice.

Now that it's spring, I thought, "Oh, how lovely! We'll be able to walk again." When a Well+Good editor reached out to see if I’d be interested in walking for at least 15 minutes every day for a week to see how it felt, it seemed like a great opportunity to try to kickstart a new habit. Unfortunately, I forgot that living in Pennsylvania (or anywhere on the East Coast from Virginia on up) means you get the dreaded second winter.

On day one, it was beautiful—which got my hopes up for this little experiment even more. I loaded my daughter up in the car, lifted the stroller into the trunk, and we made our way to the nearby Bradford Dam. We crossed over the first hill to see the water and ambled along the walking trail over bridges and beneath the gorgeous trees to find the bench we love to sit on.

The sunlight danced on the water, and I thought, "Oh yes, we've made it."

Then, the next day, the temperature dropped back down into the 20s. We had to put on our hats, gloves, scarves, coats, and everything in between for just a quick stroll around the neighborhood. It became cumbersome and difficult again. It was tempting to give up and just stay indoors—but I'd committed to at least 15 minutes, so I bundled up and did it.

Once we got outside, though, no matter how bitterly cold it was, I realized that even just a short time in the fresh air turns our day around. It gives us a chance to escape the mundane routines and reconnect with each other and nature.

Walking gives me time with my 3-year-old daughter, who points out the flowers people hang on their doors, the birds tweeting in the trees, and the puppies that go "woof woof." Slowing down and seeing the world through her eyes with no distractions is a gift. Not to mention, pushing a 15-pound stroller containing a 34-pound toddler adds to the physical challenge of the walk in the best way.

When I wait until the evening, walking together gives my husband and me a chance at conversation that doesn't always come easily with never-ending to-dos, technology, and housekeeping that needs doing when we are within our (albeit comfortable) four walls.

And on the days when my daughter is at childcare and my husband is at work, that simple walk lets me do something I enjoy, for just me. I can listen to a podcast, audiobook, or some of my favorite music and let myself escape, even if just for 15 minutes. It's a reset. I can feel my muscles activating after being stationary at a desk for so long; it’s a welcome relief to be on the move and for my legs to be working.

Most days, since it’s been so cold, I’ve kept the walk to just 15 to 20 minutes. But on the nice days, we let ourselves get lost in the sunshine and walk until it’s mealtime, nap time, or time to do more work. Either way, my body is always thankful and full of so much more energy as we make our way up the driveway and back into the warmth of the house.

National Walking Day, established by the American Heart Association, is April 5. But it's worth it to get out of the house to put one foot in front of the other, even if it's colder than you want it to be—this is true any day of the year. As the weather truly does break, my family and I are excited to keep this up as a sacred ritual, a part of the daily routine for connection, time in nature, and proper relaxation.

To loosen up after a walk, try these foot stretches:

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