9 Ways to Incorporate More Walking Into Your Daily Routine

Whether or not fitness is part of your weekly routine, you likely know it’s one of the best things you can do for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Exercise can significantly reduce your risk of a myriad of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It also lowers our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases levels of serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and epinephrine (the energy hormone), explains Alicia Jones, NCCP, a certified group fitness instructor and personal training specialist. In other words, exercise can make us feel happy, give us energy, and help us cope with daily stress. 

The best part is that you don’t need to follow a formal exercise routine to reap these benefits, says running coach Amie Dworecki, BS, MA, MBA. In fact, since walking increases your heart rate and improves blood flow and oxygen delivery, you can improve your well-being just by adding more steps to your daily routine. Not sure how to get started—and stay motivated for the long haul? Check out these expert-backed tips.

Incorporating Walking into Your Daily Routine

If you’re feeling motivated to add more steps to your day-to-day but unsure where to start follow these expert-backed tips. 

Walk While You Work

You’d be surprised by how many things you can get done all while walking instead of sitting down. If you work behind a desk, consider getting an under-desk treadmill. “Even walking slowly at 1.5 mph can add up your activity minutes and benefits instead of sitting over time,” says Dworecki. Another idea is to schedule walking meetings, which essentially involve taking a work call or in-person meeting while you’re walking. Not only does this help you get your steps in, but Jones points out that it helps you think more clearly to boost your decision-making capabilities. 

Change Up Your Commute

If you live near work, Dworecki recommends walking to work rather than driving, which increases your physical activity and helps the environment. “For longer commutes, you can park farther away from work and walk the remaining distance, which also helps break up the time you spend sitting and helps you get sunlight and fresh air, which also benefits your health,” she adds.

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If you take public transportation, whether it’s a bus or the subway, consider getting off a stop or two early to add in some steps. Even walking an extra 500-1000 steps per day adds up over time and will pay dividends in health and wellness increases, notes Jordan Hosbein, NASM, the owner of Iron and Grit.

Make Socializing Active

Instead of meeting with friends or family at a bar or restaurant, why not ask them if they’d like to go for a walk instead? Enlisting the company of a walking buddy, whether it’s your friend, spouse, or child, can go a long way to hold you accountable to show up to your walks. “We often break commitments to ourselves, but we would never want to let someone else down,” says Jones. “Walking with someone you care about also makes the activity engaging, fun, and something you’ll look forward to.”

In the same way that walking with a friend is a great distraction to keep you occupied while you’re walking, so is talking on the phone, which can help the time go by faster. (Just be sure to stay aware of your surroundings as you chat!) Plus, Hosbein points out that the conversation will flow better because you’ll be getting oxygen to your brain and releasing endorphins, which are the body’s feel-good chemicals.

Take the Stairs

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalators incorporates more activity into your daily routine, making it less necessary to carve out dedicated time for workouts. “Since we are all busy people, this makes getting fit, healthy, and active much easier,” says Jones. 

Run Local Errands on Foot

Driving might be the fastest way to get around, but it involves little-to-no movement on your part. If there are destinations that take you less than 10 minutes to drive, consider walking to them instead to get in some physical fitness. 

Bring Your Dog

Did you know that research has found that dog owners get more activity in a day than most people who own other types of pets? This is simply because dogs can be walked outside, unlike cats or other domestic pets.

If you generally just let your pup out to use the bathroom and take walks alone, consider changing things up. “Walking your pet not only helps you bond with them and gives them more mental and physical stimulation, but it also helps you walk more,” says Dworecki. “If you don’t have a dog, you can help a neighbor by walking their dog, find a dog walking site (and get paid to do it!), or volunteer to walk a shelter dog.”

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Make Your Life Inconvenient

Parking farther away from your destination helps you add in additional steps. Dworecki also points out that this simple tactic can also save you time since you don’t have to circle the parking lot several times to find a spot that’s closest to your destination. 

Utilize Downtime to Sneak in Steps

We all spend a lot of time waiting around for things—meetings, appointments, flights. Next time you have some time to spare, consider skipping the seat and going for a walk instead. “If you think you would look odd walking laps in a small waiting room, you can let the receptionist know that you will be walking outside so they can get you when it’s time or even call or text your phone,” says Dworecki. “This strategy can also work in airports and sometimes helps you clock in miles of walking, depending on how long you must wait for your next flight.”

Mix Entertainment With Movement

If you have a treadmill, consider installing a TV nearby so that you can tune into your favorite shows while you walk. This is an easy strategy to get your step count up and break up sedentary stretches, notes Dworecki. “You can also save certain shows to watch only when walking, motivating you to complete your walking workouts or encouraging you to walk longer to see how the show ends,” she adds.

If you prefer to walk outside, save your favorite podcast for your walks. Listening to something you enjoy will make the time go by faster and keep you entertained.

Overcoming Barriers and Staying Motivated

Obstacles will come your way—here’s how to stay focused and on top of your walking goals. 

Set Realistic Goals

Setting lofty goals might be admirable but also unattainable. Should you not live up to your expectations, you may become discouraged. For this reason, it’s helpful to set realistic goals for you to accomplish—such as commuting to work by foot twice a week instead of five. If you walk a third day, it’s a bonus, but if your goal is twice a week and you’re feeling unmotivated, you may not walk at all. 

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Find Ways to Make Walking Enjoyable

When Dworecki worked as a personal trainer in a gym, one of the most common questions clients would ask her was, “What exercise burns the most calories?” She would tell them it was the exercise they enjoyed most because they would do it all the time. “If you can find ways to make walking more enjoyable and engaging, you will want to do it more frequently,” she says. “This interest will lead to a more stable and frequent routine so you can maintain the health benefits of it for the long term.”

Seek Support from Friends, Family, or Online Communities

You shouldn’t have to take on your walking efforts alone—there are probably plenty of friends and family members willing to walk by your side and commit to your goals with you. If you don’t live near any friends and family, consider joining online communities to further your motivation. 

Track Progress and Celebrate Milestones

Tracking your progress can be especially useful because it allows you to see how far you’ve come. Dworecki recommends doing this by tracking mileage, checking the days they have walked or making a specific step count on a paper or electronic calendar. “Rewarding yourself for hitting your milestones can be another stimulus for you to go even further,” she adds. 

Explore Different Walking Techniques or Styles 

There are a myriad of different walking techniques, such as power or interval walking, which involves walking at a fast pace for a period of time to get your heart rate up and then followed by a slower pace to get your heart rate back down. Not only is this beneficial for your heart, but it can also help keep your walks less boring.

All in all, any physical activity is beneficial for your health—and walking is one of the most easy and attainable types of exercises you can do just about anywhere. Incorporating walking into your daily routine will help boost your mental, physical and emotional health and may even increase your longevity.

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