Fitness Tips

How To Build a Walking Routine That You’ll Actually Stick To

Kells McPhillips

Photo: Getty/Morsa Images
My work-from-home dream is to shut my laptop at 1 p.m. on the dot and go for a thirty-minute stroll. Yet somehow, every day when the clock strikes 6 p.m., I look up from my to-do list and realize that (sigh) I haven't taken a single step. As with every new habit, making time for a daily trip around the block takes time and effort—so I asked walking coach and ACE-trainer, Michele Stanten, how to start a walking routine that anyone can actually stick to.

Before you commit to a walking routine, it's helpful to nail down your motivation, says Stanten. After all, if you're not clear on why you want to lace up mid-day, what's the point, really? "When you go out and take that walk, you come back better," says Stanton. "There's research showing that 15 minutes of walking can boost your creativity and your problem-solving skills. There's evidence that walking boosts your mood, reduces anxiety, and eases stress. So try shifting your thinking so that your walk isn't something you have to do; look at how it's benefiting you," says Stanten.

From there, it really comes down to setting yourself up for success with tried-and-true tricks that will help you stand up from your desk. Below, Stanten offers her top five tips for starting a walking routine... and sticking to it Monday through Friday.

5 tips for how to start a walking routine, straight from a walking coach

1. Start small (or, okay, short)

Research tells us that even the smallest doses of exercise offer life-changing benefits for your mental and physical health. "When you're starting out, try to only do five or ten minutes a day," says Stanten. "It's really doable, but what it does is get you in that habit of walking every day." From there, you can work your way up to a longer distance—but don't let the "more is more" mentality trick you when it comes to your walk.

2. Set a "cue" that reminds you it's time to grab your sneakers

It's psychology 101 that every great habit starts with a "cue," or something that triggers the habit. By tacking on your walk to another part of your routine, you're far more likely to stick to it, says Stanten. Maybe that means stepping outside the moment you place your lunch dishes in the sink, or right after your daily 11 a.m. meeting. Over time, walking will become a habit just like any other. Promise.

3. Mix up your route

Sometimes a change of scenery is what you need to really look forward to your walk. Maybe that means saving your favorite park loop for hectic Mondays, or celebrating with a beach walk on Friday. "I'm a big proponent of mixing up your routine. That could mean simply walking the route in reverse, or if you're doing the same route, you can do things like pick up the pace. Do some intervals. Speed up for 30 seconds, then go back to your normal pace," Stanten suggests.

4. If you live somewhere cold, seek out warm walking routes

So it's 10 degrees outside and snowing? Today might not be the best to walk one of your routes. Instead, Stanten recommends locating a warm shopping mall nearby where you can get in your paces without risking frostbite. Another bonus of this option is that malls almost always have security, which may help you feel safe during the darker days of winter.

5. Save your favorite podcast for your walk

If you, like me, have one podcast you look forward to each day, Stanten recommends saving it for your walk. That way, you're looking forward to two things: getting outside and listening to your favorite audio (like, say, the Well+Good pod!). If you own a treadmill, this also works with your favorite TV show. Walk inside and savor the next episode.

On your stroll, check out this episode of the Well+Good podcast:

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