Is there anything better than pulling on your comfy trainers and heading outdoors for a walk? With the first breath of fresh air and the sun on your face, you feel better. Your muscles warm up, your joints loosen, and you settle into a comfortable stride. The rhythmic movement helps you relax and boosts your mood.
I love going for a walk. It’s such a great exercise.
It costs nothing, is suitable for most people, and gets you out of the house. You can walk at a leisurely pace or take it up a notch and increase the speed and intensity of your workout. Or do a combination of both for some interval walking.
If you don’t exercise much, it’s an ideal way to build up your activity levels. Be sure to talk with your doctor first to get the all-clear, especially if you’ve recently had surgery or have other health conditions. Then start slow and gradually increase your distances and times.
Try walking 30 minutes a day on most days of the week, and you’ll definitely notice the health benefits. Walking regularly can help you manage your pain, maintain a healthy weight, lift your mood, get a good night’s sleep, improve your muscle and joint health and increase heart and lung fitness.
If you can’t walk 30 minutes at a time, you can easily break the walking up over your day. You don’t have to do it all in one go to reap the benefits. So during your day, you can do three 10 minute walks, two 15 minutes walks or six 5 minute walks, whatever works for you. It all adds up 😊.
And if 30 minutes most days isn’t realistic for you at the moment, set yourself a goal so that it becomes achievable. Think about your daily commitments, your level of fitness, your pain/fatigue levels and all the other things that affect you daily. Now create a SMART goal. That’s a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and has a Time-frame that works for you. It will help you set a practical plan for achieving your goal. Read our blog about goal setting for more info.
14 tips for better walking
Dress the part
Let’s start with the most important element of your walking outfit – your shoes. They need to be comfortable, fit properly, and support your feet. Look for light, flexible shoes with thick, non-slip soles. Avoid slip-on shoes, and if laces are difficult to fasten due to arthritis in your hands, Velcro or elastic laces might be an option.
Your clothes should be loose and/or stretchy enough to allow you to walk without restrictions. Make sure you wear a hat and sunglasses on sunny days. And grab any mobility aids you use before you head out.
Warm up and cool down to prevent injuries or pain
While you might be eager just to get out there, it’s important to take the time to let your muscles and joints warm up. So start your walk slowly, and gradually increase your pace. And when you’re close to finishing your walk, take the time to slow it down and give your body the chance to cool down. You can also incorporate some basic stretches to warm-up and cool down. Check out these stretches from the Arthritis Foundation (USA).
Did you know that 10 minutes of brisk walking is classified as cardio as long as you’re slightly out of breath? Brisk walking at a moderate intensity provides more health benefits than a simple stroll. How fast you need to walk for it to be moderate intensity will depend on your age and fitness level. So it differs from person to person. You can tell if you’re walking at a brisk, moderate-intensity pace if you’re breathing heavier than usual but can still have a conversation. But if you can walk and sing (which is a little unusual) 😉, you need to kick the intensity up a notch.
Make walking a part of your routine
To make walking a daily activity, you need to build it into your routine. Go at the same time each day – e.g. before/after work, before breakfast/after lunch. Whatever time suits you best and allows you the space to commit to it. Before long, when that time arrives each day, you’ll find yourself automatically reaching for your walking shoes. 👟👟
Listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts
Going for a walk by yourself gives you space for some alone time. Listen to something that interests or relaxes you as you exercise. There are many entertaining podcasts and audiobooks you can access free online. Or you can borrow audiobooks from your public library and download them to your phone.
You can also make yourself a walking playlist featuring your favourite music that starts slower (for your warm-up), gets faster (for your main workout) and slows down again towards the end of your walk (for a cool down).
Make it social
At other times, it’s nice to walk with others. It’s fun and will help keep you motivated. You can chat, shoot the breeze, catch up and just be social 😊. So walk with friends or your family. And if you have a dog, bring it along! They need the exercise too. And dog owners are always up for a chat 🐶!
Explore new places
As many of us discovered during past lockdowns, walking the same paths day after day can become a little tedious. Mixing it up will make your walks more enjoyable. So look at your maps and discover new walking trails, parklands and suburbs.
Or try a variation of this idea. Comedian and radio host Tony Martin and his partner have spent more than ten years exploring the streets of Melbourne, with the goal to walk every street! While you may not want to go that extreme, you could start smaller and check out different streets of your neighbourhood. Or pull out the old Melways or use your GPS to discover new and interesting places to walk.
Take a water bottle
Walking can be thirsty work, so you may need to take some water to remain hydrated. And depending on how far you’re walking, consider taking a small backpack for your water bottle and any other supplies you think you may need, such as snacks, sunscreen, a map, band-aids (just in case) and your phone.
Be mindful while you’re walking
Take time to be in the moment and experience the walk. How do your feet feel as they connect with the ground? What can you smell? How does the wind feel on your face? What can you see around you? Take the time and opportunity to really connect with what you’re doing and savour every moment.
Track your walking with a pedometer or fitness activity tracker
This’s a great way to see how you’ve progressed over time. And many of the walking apps allow you to challenge others, so if you can’t physically walk together, you can in spirit. And a little healthy competition can help you push yourself to achieve more 😉.
Increase the distance and intensity of your walks over time
To see the health benefits from your walking, you need to push yourself to go further and harder. Just be mindful that you don’t push too hard, too soon. Especially if you’ve been unwell, had surgery, or you’re having a flare. Listen to what your body is telling you. A physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or fitness instructor can provide tips and guidance if you need help.
If it’s raining or just too hot or cold to take your walk outdoors, stay in! There are many ways you can walk indoors. For example, you can walk around your home if you have the space. Or you can follow an online video of walking exercises (there are many available to suit your specific needs and fitness level). Or you can take your walk to the shopping centre. They have lots of open areas to walk and places to rest and hydrate when you need to. Just try not to get distracted and slow down to shop! 😂 You can also take your walk to the local fitness centre or gym. Many have indoor walking tracks you can use for free if you’re a member or for a small fee if you’re not.
Be aware of walking surfaces
They’re not all equal. Natural surfaces such as grass, fine gravel, dirt and woodchip are softer and generally easier on your joints. However, they’re not always even surfaces, so you need to be aware of potential trip hazards. Manmade surfaces such as asphalt and concrete can be more jarring on sore joints. However, they’re generally smoother. So factor walking surfaces into your plans. If your hips, knees, ankles or feet are particularly sore, go for the softer, more natural surfaces. If you’re concerned about falling or bad weather, manmade surfaces may be your best option.
Consider joining a walking or bushwalking group. You’ll meet other people who love walking, explore new places together and get lots of tips and advice to make walking more enjoyable and challenging.
Another option is parkruns. They’re free, weekly community events with 5km walks and runs in parks and open spaces on Saturday mornings. Everyone is welcome, there are no time limits, and best of all, no one finishes last! 😊
So what are you waiting for? Pull on your walking shoes, grab a friend or your headphones, and as the INXS song goes, just keep walking!
Contact our free national Help Line
Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your pain, musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via Messenger.
More to explore
- 12 tips for walking when you have sensitive knees
- Building a walking workout
- Nordic walking Is an ideal low impact exercise, especially with arthritis
- Top tips for walking with arthritis
- Walking towards healthier knees
- Walking with arthritis: benefits, tips, how to prevent pain