This is a well trodden path but it is worth retracing: regular walking is great for your wellbeing. There are numerous physical and mental health benefits to walking, ranging from longer life spans (1) to reduced depression (2). But how do you keep yourself motivated in order to reap the rewards of rambling? Perhaps one of the most on-trend motivators is Pokémon Go but below we include ten other ways to make walking more interesting!
Fact: Anxiety can impact people’s walking direction! Research from the School of Psychology at the University of Kent has shown that increased right-brain activity causes people who are experiencing anxiety and inhibition to walk with a leftward trajectory. (3)
Combine your walk with hunting for a free book! BookCrossing is a social networking site that enables people to assign a unique identity to a book so that it can be tracked as the book is passed from reader to reader. This allows the journey of the book to be traced and its readers to be connected. So why not turn your walk into a treasure hunt for books or set off on an adventure to release a book you no longer want into the wild before sitting back at home to watch its progress into the world? Just remember to keep yourself safe online!
“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.” Henry Miller, The Books in my Life (1969)
Alternative idea: If you want your walk to end in books but BookCrossing isn’t going to work for you then another idea is to walk to your local library. You don’t even need to miss out on the social connection as lots of libraries have groups and events running so that you can combine picking up your latest read with meeting other people.
2. Make the most of your competitive instinct
Some gentle competition, either with yourself or against others, can sometimes be a serious motivator. If you are happy competing with yourself then a pedometer is likely to be a sound investment and there are some great sites out there that can make step counting even more enticing. Why not try www.10000steps.org or www.worldwalking.org. Both allow you to include your steps towards walking challenges and on www.10000steps.org you can see where you are in comparison to others, upping the motivation factor! Both sites are free to join.
3. Walk in a group
Research has shown the benefits of walking groups, demonstrating that they can play a role in reducing rates of depression. (4) You could look for a group in your local area or put your leadership skills to the test and organise a group of your own.
Alternative idea: Why not combine your walking with a charity event? There are lots of walking possibilities when it comes to fundraising. Plus doing something for others is one of those things that is shown to come with the feel-good factor. To incentivise you to the maximum then choose a cause that really matters to you. If they don’t run a walking event themselves then you could devise one of your own. Get in touch with the organisation to ask if they would be happy for you to do it to raise funds for them and whether they can help you promote it.
4. Listen whilst you walk
Whether it be listening to a collection of your favourite music, a podcast or a talking book, this is a great way to make walking more fun. Choose what you listen to carefully and you could increase the benefits you gain from the time spent walking. For example, you could choose a podcast about relaxation techniques or a talking book about mindfulness. If you prefer to listen to music then choosing something from a classical genre or self-selected “relaxing music” has been shown to significantly reduce levels of anxiety and anger following exposure to a stressor. You could check out our post on minimalist music if you need some ideas!
Whatever your choice of listening material, if you have had a stressful day you can increase your sense of relaxation and reduce physiological symptoms associated with stress by picking the right background music for your walk! (5) Just don’t forget to be careful of the traffic.
5. Earn money whilst you walk
If you are motivated by money, then you could check out Pact. This app enables users to pledge a commitment to walking 10000 steps per day. If successfully accomplished, users earn a monetary reward for their effort. The flip side of this is that the reward is paid by those users who have been unsuccessful in their pledged activities … and that user could well be you! The stake you pay for uncompleted activities is agreed in advance of the activity starting. However, it is worth noting that the stakes you will be paying are higher than the rewards received. Steps are tracked by the app’s inbuilt step counter or the user can synchronise other applications, such as Fitbit, to validate their progress.
If you decide to go down this route then do your research carefully before pledging your money. Make sure you feel confident in the site and your assessment of how realistic you are to make or lose money with this option. If you remain unsure, you could always set up a similar motivator on a smaller scale. Just pop a forfeit jar in your house in which you pay a sum of your choice if you don’t do 10000 steps. Or a rewards jar for successful days or weeks. The rewards jar could have a sum of money or perhaps you could include some treat ideas on little pieces of paper from which you can pick when you have hit your target!
Alternative idea: check out tip number eight below, which contains another way to combine walking and money-making with Huntzz.
6. Mindful walking
If you want to take your walking wellbeing a step further … pun absolutely intended … then combining a physical workout with thirty minutes of meditation has be shown to be particularly effective in reducing ruminative thought patterns. (6) If this form of MAP training – training that combines the mental and physical – is not for you then you could try ChiWalking, which blends walking with the inner focuses of T’ai Chi, the ancient Chinese martial art proven to increase balance, strength, and mental focus. They even have an app!
Otherwise, take the mindful approach to walking. Headspace have a couple of single sessions on walking. But if you are not a fully-fledged member of Headspace then you could try these simple tips:
- Stay in the moment by counting your steps but unlike your pedometer when you reach ten go back to the beginning
- Focus on how it feels to be walking. Concentrate on the breeze on your face. Or do a moving body scan, simply observing how much tension you are holding without judging yourself.
- Keep an eye on your surroundings to stay grounded. If you find yourself drifting to thinking about where you are going then gently bring back your focus to the sounds, smells, sights around you. If you have a choice head to the green spaces. Research has shown that this improves your wellbeing whilst walking (7).
A well-known way to make walking more interesting is Geocaching. A little like Book Crossing, this introduces an element of treasure hunting into your walk. Want to find out a bit more about Geocaching? Why not check out the video below:
8. Educate yourself whilst walking
Huntzz is another website that is based on the treasure-hunting idea and is used by lots of attractions and cities in the UK to act as a local tour guide. If there’s not one in your area you can use their creation tool to devise one of your own. There is a handy step-by-step guide and once you have created your hunt then you can share it with anyone with an iPhone, iPad or Android device. If you want your hunt to have a wider audience then you can also submit it directly to Huntzz who share any of the revenue received.
Waymarking is the final treasure-hunt inspired website we have chosen to include and like Huntzz it enables people to find and share local points of interest. If you like collecting then this could be the one for you as you can log each Waymark. When we looked at our local area then we found over 300 to collect within a 10km radius. That is a lot of walking!
10. Walk for your life
If you are feeling a little lethargic then you could try Zombies, Run. This is a game that imagines a zombie apocalypse and encourages you to follow a mission to collect supplies to rebuild your town. This is perfect for those times when you may need a bit of an energy boost. But be warned: imagining being chased by zombies may not be the perfect stress-boosting strategy! Although it could be one way of putting things into perspective if you have had a stressful day?!
We hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas! This post is the start of a series so for more ways to make things that can feel tedious more interesting then follow Soothing Sense on Twitter.