We all know that walking is good for our health. It improves bone and muscle strength, boosts balance and coordination, and reduces the risk of diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Plus, it’s incredibly beneficial for our mental health too, and can be a powerful way to relieve both stress and anxiety. But it can be hard to find the time or motivation to walk as much as we should – and sometimes, no matter how much we try to increase our daily step count, completing thousands of steps a day doesn’t always seem possible – or desirable.
So why not try combining walking with another activity? Not only can this make walking seem more interesting and enjoyable, it can also be a way to tick tasks off your to-do list and get more things done. So, to help make walking seem that bit more attractive, here are 10 different rewarding activities you can do while walking.
1. Listen to an audiobook or some music
If you enjoy reading but can’t seem to find the time to get into a good book, then why not listen to an audiobook while going for a walk? Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason: they allow you to get totally immersed in a story while still doing other things. You can listen to audiobooks while you’re cooking, cleaning, working out or driving – but walking might just be the most enjoyable and beneficial way to lose yourself in a book.
If you’re currently going through lockdown with a family member, you’ll probably be aware of how important it is to get some personal space now and then, and heading out for a walk while listening to your book is a fun and healthy way to get some me-time. If you have an Amazon account, you can do a free 30-day Audible membership trial to see whether audiobooks are for you. Whatever type of your books you’re into, there are audiobooks for everyone: have a read of our article, 14 of the most popular audiobooks, to get inspired.
Of course, you don’t have to listen to audiobooks when you’re walking. Listening to music while you work can be restorative, invigorating and relaxing, depending on the genre of music you’re listening to – so if you don’t already use Spotify, then you might want to check it out. Spotify is a digital streaming site that’s home to millions of songs and podcasts, and it’s great for discovering new artists as well as listening to old favourites. Spotify is free, but you can upgrade to a premium account if you don’t want adverts interrupting your flow.
2. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a technique that’s all about bringing your attention to the present moment. It’s easy for our thoughts to wander, and for the things we’re worried or stressed about to creep into the forefront of our minds, no matter how hard we try to focus on the present – and so mindfulness is a great way to counteract this. Practicing mindfulness while you walk is pretty straightforward: it’s all about focusing on the moment, and observing the different sights, sounds and smells you encounter.
If you prefer guided meditations, you can download the Headspace app and try their walking meditation. Headspace isn’t free but you can do a free two-week trial to see if it’s for you. Two free Mindfulness sites you might also want to check out include Smiling Mind and MyLife. Alternatively, you can listen to a free 10 minute walking meditation on the Mindful website – or just head out by yourself and try to appreciate your environment in brand new ways. What can you see, hear and smell? What new thoughts are coming to you? How are you feeling?
Aside from gaining a new appreciation for your surroundings on your walk, you may well find that you return home feeling relaxed, refreshed and re-energised.
3. Learn a language
If you’d like to learn a new language but have struggled in the past, you might be interested to know that walking can give your learning abilities a big boost. Studies show that the hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s responsible for learning and memory, grows as you exercise and become fitter – and other studies even show that walking while learning a language makes it easier to pick up new vocabulary and retain information.
So why not use your walking time to learn a language via a free app like Duolingo? Simply plug in your headphones and go! Some other language apps that offer entirely hands-free learning include Pimsleur, FluentU, and Rosetta Stone. Or, to find out more about how you could benefit from language learning, you might want to check out point nine of our article here.
If you’re not particularly interested in learning a language, you could consider using your walking time to learn something else – anything else! – because the benefits that walking has on memory and retention apply regardless of what it is that you’re learning. You might want to learn about stocks and trading, listen to educational podcasts, or find out more about health and nutrition. Whatever you decide to learn, you might find that walking while listening makes holding onto new information much easier.
To find out more about how walking and exercise can benefit learning, have a read of our new article, How exercise can lead to better brain health.
4. Practice photography
No matter how well you know your local area, it can look quite different through a viewfinder – and taking photos while you walk is a great way to get a new perspective on your neighbourhood. Many of us spent the past year trying out new hobbies or developing new skills, and if you’d like to spend more time with your camera, then going for a walk can provide the perfect backdrop and inspiration.
The beauty of living in such a digital age is that you don’t need to go walking with a heavy DSLR camera around your neck. These days, smart phones can take exceptional, professional-looking photos, so most of us already have a camera on hand wherever we go. You could go walking and just see what strikes you – or you could set out with a particular theme in mind, like trees, cars, old buildings, pedestrians… etc. The opportunities are endless, and once creativity starts to flow, you might find that time runs away from you.
To find out more about how to improve your camera skills, you might want to read our articles, A beginner’s guide to photography, How to take better photos with your phone and 8 fun photography projects that you can start today.
5. Practice gratitude
There’s no denying the past year has been challenging, and many of us have struggled with feelings of frustration, anxiety and isolation. It can be hard to feel positive and grateful when we’re living through lockdowns and global pandemics – but it’s during challenging times like these that appreciating what we have becomes most important. This is where gratitude comes in. Gratitude is a form of optimism that encourages us to feel happier and more fulfilled, and helps us focus on the things we do have, rather than fixating on what’s missing.
Because walking is often a solitary activity, it can be one of the best times to practice gratitude. Going for a crisp morning walk can make you feel grateful for the things you often overlook – the beauty of the early morning misty air, the strength of your body as you stride – and this can make it easier for you to acknowledge all the other positives you have: a warm home perhaps, a loving animal companion, opportunities for the future. Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve physical and mental health, improve sleep, build resilience, and decrease stress; and so incorporating gratitude into your daily walks can provide enormous rewards in many areas of your life.
To find out more about practicing gratitude, you might want to check out our article, How practicing gratitude can lead to a happier life.
6. Chat to family or friends on the phone
The past year has highlighted just how good it can feel to stay connected to friends and family – even if we all have to do that virtually for now. Although many of us are spending most of our days at home, it can still be tricky to find the right time or headspace to give loved ones a call… so why not use a walk to chat to family and friends?
When you’re out walking, you’re free from the distractions of home, whether that’s the dog barking or dirty dishes sitting in the sink, and are better able to focus on speaking and listening. Plus, when you’re chatting away with a loved one the time can fly by, making those 10,000 steps a day far more achievable, and enjoyable. Just like walking itself, chatting with loved ones can significantly boost our mood and wellbeing, so if you’re feeling low or isolated, calling a friend while taking a walk might be the perfect solution.
If you have regular meetings at work, why not give video calling a miss now and then, and ask if you can take a walking call? Not only does this mean you’re getting some low-impact exercise in during your call, rather than just sitting in a chair, but getting outside and enjoying some fresh air can act as a re-energiser. You might find that creativity comes easier when you’re walking, and you’re better able to think of solutions to problems and come up with new ideas.
7. Write something
Admittedly, writing in the traditional sense while walking doesn’t sound like the most sensible idea, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put words down while strolling. Whether you’re writing a poem, working on a book, putting together a lengthy and important email, or writing a journal entry, voicing your ideas on your phone is a great way to save time – and sometimes, recording a voice note helps you get a new perspective on your thoughts and feelings.
You could consider downloading a voice-to-text app like Google GBoard (iOS/Android) for free, or Otter (iOS/Android), which offers a free basic account. These apps will allow you to turn spoken words into text – or if you don’t mind typing up your thoughts, you can play your recording back when you get home. Hearing your words spoken out loud is a great way to pick up on what works and what doesn’t, so this is a great technique for editing your writing.
We recently wrote about the power of journaling, and how keeping a journal can improve mental health, aid learning and development, and boost memory and comprehension – so why not use your daily walk to start practicing this rewarding habit?
8. Go geocaching
If you have a real sense of adventure – and the thought of a treasure hunt has always been appealing – then you might want to think about giving geocaching a go. Geocaching is an enormously enjoyable outdoor activity where you look for small, waterproof, hidden treasure boxes, known as ‘geocaches’. There are thousands of geocaches hidden throughout the country, whether tucked away in tree branches, buried on beaches, or hidden on the side of a hill.
To find these geocaches, you just need a GPS enabled device, and the free geocaching app. After that, all you have to do is follow the coordinates, or waypoints, and locate the hidden treasure. Geocaching is an exciting and original way to do more walking and discover new places. Give it a go just once and you might find that you have an enduring new hobby. Head over to the Geocaching website to download the app and find out more.
9. Raise money for charity
If you’re looking for some seriously powerful motivation to keep walking, why not think about walking for charity? There are so many charity walks to get involved with, from brisk 5km walks to epic, long-distance treks – and whatever type of charity walk you’re interested in signing up for, working towards it is a great way to boost your fitness and endurance. Plus, knowing you’re raising money for an excellent cause is great motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
You can do charity walks solo, or with someone you’re living with. Alternatively, if an event falls in the second half of 2021 (or after), you can plan to do it with friends and family. The first step in planning a charity walk is deciding upon your charity – so first have a think about which causes are most important to you. For more information, you might want to check out these charity walk pages: Mind, Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie, Alzheimer’s Society, and British Heart Foundation (BHF). Or, if you’re in need of some inspiration to help you create a walking route, then check out this article from the BHF.
10. Problem solve
If you have a problem you’re worrying about – or a decision you’re finding it hard to make – one of the best things you can do is head outside and walk. Multiple studies show that walking helps boost creativity, generate new ideas and provide a new perspective. Plus, because oxygen intake increases while you’re walking, it can also help you feel calmer and more clear-headed.
Walking is so beneficial for problem solving that it’s formed part of the daily routines of some of the world’s top thinkers: Tchaikovsky walked every morning before working on his music, Einstein liked to stroll on the beach when he needed to think about a challenging problem, and Steve Jobs famously preferred to conduct his meetings while walking. Plus, as German philosopher Nietzche stated more than 100 years ago, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
You don’t need to walk long distances, or work up a sweat, to reap the benefits of walking: simply stepping away from your situation, heading outside, and walking around the block can provide the distance you need and help you approach any issues from a new angle.
Walking is enormously beneficial for both our physical and mental health – but combining a walk with a rewarding activity makes it even more enjoyable. No matter how much time we spend at home, it can be hard to find the time and incentive to do things like learn a new language, write in our journals, call an old friend, or appreciate the smaller things in life – and so getting into the habit of doing these things while walking can be the perfect solution.
Heading out for a walk can provide the perfect opportunity to get some space, enjoy some me-time, find creativity, and reconnect with both nature and your loved ones. And getting home feeling like you’ve achieved something of note is just another bonus.
Do you have any hobbies or activities you like to do while walking – or are you thinking about trying out some of our suggestions? We’d love to hear about your walking experiences! Leave us a comment below or join the conversation on the community.