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 and can be a powerful way to relieve both stress and anxiety.
But it can be difficult 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, but it can also be a way to tick tasks off your to-do list and get more things done.
To help make walking seem that bit more appealing, here are 12 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 cooking, cleaning, working out, or driving – but walking might just be the most enjoyable and beneficial way to lose yourself in a book.
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 types of 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 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 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.
For ideas on what to listen to, check out our article; 10 of the best Spotify playlists for every mood.
2. Practise mindfulness
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. But mindfulness is a great way to counteract this, as it’s a technique that’s all about bringing your attention to the present moment.
Practising 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 platforms you might also want to check out include Smiling Mind and Insight Timer.
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, 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 responsible for learning and memory – grows as you exercise and becomes fitter. Other research even suggests 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.
For further encouragement, you can read about the benefits of learning a new language on our site. And, if you’re unsure which language to start with, you’ll find some ideas in our articles; 9 most spoken languages that are useful to learn and 6 languages that are easier for English speakers to learn.
4. Immerse yourself in a new topic
If you’re not particularly interested in learning a language, but you’d still like to reap the benefits of expanding your mind while on the move, then you could consider using your walking time to learn something else.
For example, maybe you’d like to learn about stocks and trading, delve into the world of physics, or find out more about health and nutrition. The benefits that walking has on memory and retention apply regardless of what it is that you’re learning. Who knows, maybe it could lead to a lifelong passion or even a new career?
Other than listening to audiobooks, you could also give educational podcasts a go. There are thousands available alongside a Spotify membership. Alternatively, you can check out this article from Insider to find out about some more of the best places to listen to all kinds of podcasts.
Our article, How exercise can lead to better brain health, has more information about how exercise can benefit learning too.
5. Practise 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.
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, smartphones 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, such as trees, cars, old buildings, pedestrians, and so on. 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 find these articles useful…
6. Pick litter
Picking up litter while walking can be a rewarding activity for several reasons.
The most obvious reason is that it can give you a sense of purpose and help you feel more connected to your community. When you take the initiative to pick up litter, you’re demonstrating that you care about your surroundings and are willing to take action to improve them.
Picking up litter can also encourage mindfulness. As you walk and scan your surroundings for litter, you’re forced to focus your attention on the present moment, which can help you feel more calm and centred, and may even reduce stress levels.
Plus, picking up litter can be a great form of exercise. Squatting, bending, and reaching to pick up litter can help you with building strength and flexibility.
You can decide to pick litter alone or you may want to find a group to join – which you can do through the Cleanup UK website.
7. Practise gratitude
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. Gratitude can be an especially important skill to have when we face challenges in life because it can help us to maintain emotional balance.
Because walking is often a solitary activity, it can be one of the best times to practise gratitude. Going for a crisp morning walk can make you feel grateful for the things you often overlook – for example, the beauty of the early morning misty air, and the strength of your body as you stride. This can make it easier for you to acknowledge all the other positives you have: a warm home, perhaps, a loving animal companion, or opportunities for the future.
Practising gratitude has been shown to improve physical and mental health, improve sleep, build resilience, and decrease stress. So incorporating gratitude into your daily walks can provide significant rewards in many areas of your life.
To find out more about practising gratitude, check out our article; How practising gratitude can lead to a happier life.
8. Chat to family or friends on the phone
Staying connected to friends and family is important for our mental health. For example, it can help tackle feelings of loneliness. Sometimes, however, it can still be tricky to find the right time or headspace to give loved ones a call…so why not chat to family and friends while walking?
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 during your call, 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.
9. 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. 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’ve previously written about the power of journaling; how it can improve mental health, aid learning and development, and boost memory and comprehension – so why not use your daily walk to start practising this rewarding habit?
10. 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 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 behind a postbox.
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.
11. Raise money for charity
If you’re looking for some seriously powerful motivation to keep walking, then 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 marathons – 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 friends and family. The first step in planning a charity walk is deciding on your charity – so first, have a think about which causes are most important to you.
If you have a problem that you’re worrying about – or a decision you’re finding difficult 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 taking a stroll. 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 incredibly beneficial for both our physical and mental health – but combining a walk with a rewarding activity can make 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. Therefore, 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 you-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.
For more tips on how to stay active, you can visit the fitness and exercise section of our website.