10 irresistible reasons to walk more:
Guess what? The most effective form of exercise is the type you’ll consistently perform. Walking is already the most popular form of exercise in Australia. Walking is enjoyable, convenient and free. But perhaps these factors also make it easy to forget how beneficial walking actually is.
So rather than hitting the gym or contemplating your first marathon in 2020, why not pledge to walk more? Here are some incentives to get you (or a friend) walking further.
Also read: Is walking enough by itself (we spoke to an expert about how much walking you need to do)
1.Ten minutes is all it takes …
In their great article in The Conversation Victorian academics Megan Teychenne and Clint Miller summarised the wonders of walking for overall health. In short, you don’t need to walk briskly, or for long periods to gain benefits for aerobic fitness, flexibility and strength - while regular walking CAN also keep your weight down. Teychene and Miller point out that walking for ten minutes three times per day is as beneficial as walking for 30 minutes in one go.
Ideas: Walk to the train station, or park further from regular destinations and you’ll be well on the way to getting your recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise.
Tip: A healthy adult easily covers 4.8km/hr - or 800 metres in ten minutes (considered 'brisk' here). But if you're a fast walker you can cover close to 6.5km/hr (1.1km in ten minutes).
2. You'll live longer (and be wealthier)
We’re an impatient lot so it’s common to think about short-term gains such as scrimping to save money for a holiday or going hard with an exercise regime to lose a few kilos.
But when it comes to health and finances we might all benefit from making lighter lifestyle changes that are more sustainable in the long run.
Fact: People who walk regularly have a much lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, arthritis, depression, anxiety and insomnia, and premature death from all causes.
Being healthy is also a great way to stay wealthier; a European study estimated that a person who switched from driving to walking for a 2.5km journey to work experiences health benefits worth €1300 ($1994) per annum.
3. Deep and meaningfuls
Want a tip? Find a walking buddy. There are so many plusses here we’re not sure where to start, but making a commitment to meet someone for a walk means you’re more likely to do it. As well as the sociability factor, you get to catch up without spending a cent. So rather than meeting for a meal, a drink or a movie - set up a regular walking date – once a day, once a week or once a month. We guarantee you’ll have a better conversation too!
Take a teenager: Walking is a great way to clear the air. Our latest study on young people aged 15-20 found the strongest motivation for walking was "to calm down when stressed, angry or anxious" (84 per cent). Another strong motivator was if a family member or friend asked to walk with them (71 per cent).
Idea: Some apps allow you to connect with people in your area who have similar interests. Meet Ups is one, but you could also try to start a local walking group or trial some local events - starting with a few friends.
4. Goodbye traffic
Here's an alarming statistic: Each week in Melbourne and Geelong five million car trips are made to travel distances that are less than 900 metres.
Here's why you should ditch the car and combine walking with public transport instead. Research shows that people who catch public transport are likely to be a whole lot more active than those who drive.
Public transport users in metropolitan Melbourne average 28 minutes walking to and from public transport each day, plus six minutes walking for other purposes, while car travellers average only six minutes in total.
So perhaps nabbing a perfect park isn’t such a great thing after all?
5. You get to shop more
Try doing a big supermarket shop less often, and make a point of walking to your closest shops for particular items such as milk and bread a couple of times a week. Besides the exercise there's an added bonus; you'll be supporting local businesses thereby helping to sustain viable, walkable communities rather than car-dependent communities where residents have to travel via car to access shops and services.
Did you know? 40 per cent of trips within metropolitan Melbourne are less than two kilometres, but most people drive. An average petrol car in Australia produces 2.7 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions for every litre of fuel combusted (it’s 2.9 kilograms for a diesel vehicle).
6. It's contagious (and that's a good thing!)
In addition to the obvious health and environmental benefits of walking, it’s important to note that walking also cultivates community – something missing in many modern lives and suburbs.
The more we walk, the more we know about where we live - and the people we share our neighbourhood with. The better we know our neighbours, the safer we feel. AND the safer we feel, the more we walk!
Research: In our latest report, 75 per cent of Victorians aged 15-20 said they felt safer "walking in busy places where there are more people around".
7. Turn a smile into a conversation
Change is as good as a holiday, right? Not always. If you walk at a regular time and take a regular route you’re much more likely to bump into the same people, and turn a smile into a conversation.
Did you know: You can make a map of your favourite walking route here then publish and share it with friends? Share the highlights of your neighbourhood, or if you have young children, map the safest walking route to kindergarten or school and share it with other families who can join you.
8. Go on holiday
We all need something to look forward to, especially to get us through a Victorian winter! So why not plan your next holiday (or holidays) with walking in mind?
When you’re looking for accommodation find somewhere close to good walking tracks, or close to amenities such as shops and public transport so that you can ditch the car while you’re away.
9. Make it a game
If you want to increase the fitness benefits you’re getting from walking, then turn walking into a game. Try using apps such as Strava to give your walking routine a competitive edge, or use a smartphone or fitness tracker to compare daily steps with family and friends.
Research: A Harvard study found that people who turned their step counts into a competition boosted their daily walking distance by about 1.5km.
10. Broaden your horizons
Sick of the same old sights? Draw up a walking bucket list. If you’re stuck for ideas why not think of a theme, such as waterfalls, train lines (discover a new part of Melbourne or regional Victoria). Our Find Walks page lists some of these categories.
Closer to home you could choose a theme that matches your interests - op shops, high street fahion ... As you're getting a good walk in each time, you could even pick a foodie theme (Victoria's best burgers, anyone?)
Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Search our Walking Maps website
- Walks with great playgrounds
- Popular walks by local government area
- Dog-friendly park walks
- Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for new places to walk or 'Like' and 'Follow' our Facebook page
Have you got a favourite place to walk not listed here or at our Walking Maps website? Let us know by getting in touch here.