The health and fitness fad that has taken our society by storm can be seen everywhere in day-to-day life: from expensive athletic wear to social media accounts (with millions of followers might I add) that teach us how to make the healthiest kale smoothie ever. People are eating it up, sometimes literally.
And more power to you if you can get the fit-bit and the $100 monthly yoga membership pass. However, if you’re looking for a more cost-efficient way to get exercise, look no further than right outside your door.
As a kid, I was always involved in some kind of competitive sport, mainly cycling and soccer. And while these extreme cardiovascular activities are rewarding in their own respect, as I made the transition from adolescence to adulthood, I realized that maybe the intensity wasn’t for me. I don’t enjoy the pressure of a competitive sport, and the anxiety associated to pushing myself actually made doing it that much harder.
In the past two years, exercise hasn’t been one of my priorities. That is, until I got a dog.
My dog, Malcolm, was a feisty little man who needed to be tired to be the best canine companion that he could be. So we walked three or four times a day ranging from 10 to 45 minutes in length. If you’re thinking that’s A LOT of walking, you’re right—it was. At first, it was a chore, but after a couple of weeks, I realized I actually liked it – no, I loved it.
In addition to becoming more fit, I also slept better, was more conscious about what I ate (since really bad foods, too much food, or not enough would make it harder for me to get myself up and at it), and was better at completing necessary work to make sure I was able to fit in all of my school responsibilities and still take Malcolm out.
I was also happier. I loved smelling the fresh air, and feeling my lungs expand and relax with each breath. It was exciting to see the trees take leaf day by day during the spring, and by the end of the walk, I actually had more motivation and energy to do other things that I couldn’t motivate myself to do before; like make an effort to improve my interpersonal relationships.
In essence, walking helped me cope with my stress, anxiety, and overall mood. It provided a platform for me to release my frustration and take my mind off day-to-day life for just a little while. It also gave me the energy to deal with the problems in my life with a little more grace and mindfulness.
My experience is an extreme example, though. If you’re in school, especially pre-college school, it’s extremely hard to find time to walk four times a day. Regardless, even one walk a day might actually positively change your life, like it has mine.
Here are a couple of things to consider first before you hit the sidewalk:
- Take into account your neighborhood. What are the safest times to be outside: in the morning, right after school, or in the evening? As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to be walking outside at night. Under the cover of darkness, there is less chance that someone will be able to help you if something does go wrong. Better to be safe than sorry! If your neighborhood isn’t the best place to walk around, consider looking into after school programs that may allow you to walk around your school’s property, or a church or other community program nearby. You might meet more people to walk with, get more ideas on how to safely take a walk in your area, and have safe places to walk near.
- Recruit friends, family, neighbors or pets. Depending on your age and your location, it may be a good idea to take someone or something along with you to make you feel more comfortable when out walking. If the thought “is it safe to be doing this alone?” comes into your mind, it’s highly likely that you already know it’s not.
- Don’t forget to drink water. Regardless of whether or not you exercise, water has been shown to increase energy levels. It’s a good way to make sure you don’t get dehydrated when you start walking.
Walking can be a fun, easy, and cost-efficient way to add exercise into your daily life. It can also improve your mood and increase motivation, which can affect your schoolwork, relationships, and overall self-esteem. There is no true detriment in taking a safe walk, so get out there and see for yourself if you like it!
Ashley Judge is a junior majoring in mathematics at Indiana University and a CCPE intern.