Walk the walk
May 7, 2017 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I want to walk more, and specifically get to at least 5000 steps a day consistently. Looking for ideas on walking with a purpose.

I mostly work from home, and I have the most comfortable office environment. I do my shopping weekly.

My habits sometimes lead to days where I walked less than 1000 steps (ouch!). Depending on how you measure this is about 1km according to my phone)

Help me find excuses to get out of the house or ideas. I was thinking dogwalking other people's dogs or just going for walks at regular times (before noon break, after work), but I feel like I could use some more ideas.

P.S. I specifically want to walk more to get stronger legs to be able to do longer hikes and to become better at long-distance running
posted by wolfr to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This is an expense, but if you addict yourself to a particular coffee (or tea or whatever you drink in the AM) located somewhere walkable, you'll get steps in first thing.
posted by kapers at 9:47 AM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I use my walking time to catch up on podcasts, so maybe that or audiobooks would be a great encouragement for you. The excuse is that you're a busy person so you're going to multitask, 2pm is time to step away from the desk and "read" while you walk.
posted by padraigin at 9:54 AM on May 7, 2017 [16 favorites]

A lot of people I know have found that Pokemon Go, the cell phone game, has encouraged them to walk a lot more.

When I was trying to get a lot of steps I would walk to lunch, to coffee, etc. I was working in an office though - working at home this is tougher. I work from home now and "lunch" and "coffee" are in the kitchen, 20 steps away. Like you, I sometimes have veeeery low step days.

Dogwalking sounds like a great idea.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:55 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

As I understand it, the best way to create a new habit is to tie it to an existing habit. (Like meditating while you brush your teeth.) I started walking a lot more by going out for a half an hour walk right after I finished lunch each day. I'm about to start doing it after I eat dinner each day.

Also, do you have a fitbit or other step tracker? I actually had to STOP using mine because I got so obsessed with getting steps and kept upping my goal. The gamification really helped. Some things I did while I was obsessed with steps: park as far away as I reasonably could from all establishments, walk around the house or outside every time I was on the phone (get headphones that include a mic so you can talk on the phone), get in steps "competitions" with friends.
posted by CMcG at 10:00 AM on May 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Is there a lunch walk you can work into your day? On days where I work in the office as opposed to my clients I can work 6k steps into my day with ease just by walking between my apartment and my office and popping home for lunch. My point is that this equates to a total of about 10-15 mins walking for me. So if you can incorporate a 15 min break that consists of walk round the block into your day that would go a long way. Whether you use that to buy a paper, coffee or whatever is up to you. If there is a neighbour who can do with dog walking great. But the purpose could just be to get out of the house for a few minutes and walk.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:02 AM on May 7, 2017

Try taking a short walk around your house/building/block whenever you feel tired, stuck, or demotivated. Use it as a reset button and alternative to internet procrastination and/or caffeine.
posted by delight at 10:15 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are many ways to slip in extra steps to your day:
+ parking close to the parking lot's entrance (which is often far away from the building entrance) This also protects your car from other's doors.
+ use the bathroom farthest from your desk
+ join a club that requires walking such as an orienteering club. You don't have to fast to enjoy orienteering and the club might have loaner compasses for your first couple of meets.
posted by dlwr300 at 10:20 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

You don't have to do all of your shopping weekly. I purchase large, heavy stuff weekly but walk to pick up fresh vegetables, bread etc several times throughout the week.
posted by acidic at 10:30 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you are task oriented, set a goal of traversing all the streets in a 1/2 mile radius of your house. If you develop favorite streets, you can have a route to walk, and set goals of reducing the time it takes. If you have a camera, maybe a decent one in your mobile, take pictures. Document seasonal changes in your area. Put up a wall calendar, mark every day that you took a walk with an x; it really helps motivation when you have a string of x's that you want t keep going. Don't try to fit walking in to your schedule, prioritize it; put a daily appt. in your calendar and go walk. Reward yourself with a cup of coffee or something when you return from your walk, small rewards help build habits.

Who does your grocery shopping? I'm in Maine, and when the weather's bad, and the sidewalks and streets are full of ice & snow, I hate walking outside. I try to grocery shop several times a week, and make a point of walking every aisle. And I'll go to a big box store and just walk the aisles. If you have a mall nearby, this is an established thing, but stores will not mind.
posted by theora55 at 10:33 AM on May 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

Dogwalking is a great idea! You could charge for it, or help out someone; a lot of seniors have dogs but have trouble walking them long distances, and it's great for the dogs to get out and walk, and a nice favor to do for the elderly or infirm.

You could also try walking in a different direction/route each day, and see where you end up after 2500 steps. Maybe you'll be near a library, or a coffee shop, or a neat store, or a nice park; someplace you can decide to make a habit of visiting. I used to walk a couple miles to a great BBQ place in my old neighborhood, reward myself with a sammich, then head home.
posted by The otter lady at 10:35 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Very cool ideas! Thanks MeFi!

By nature I am a productivity guy so I don't really want to "waste time" during my work days. The audio book thing might work... or some science podcast. This will make the walks less "boring".

I have an iPhone with has a step tracker but no dedicated step tracker. I love gadgets so a FitBit might be a good idea to buy and tie to this habit. The FitBit Alta looks really cool actually. Although when I had an Apple Watch (generation 1, OS v1) I was really annoyed with the "let's move" notifications.

The photography thing is a great idea because I've been meaning to take more pictures again (I have several cameras and do some photo/video stuff as a hobby).
posted by wolfr at 10:39 AM on May 7, 2017

I have a friend who sometimes walks the neighborhood with the purpose of picking up trash. If you do it on trash pickup day, you don't even have to carry a trash bag - just drop it in the nearest trash can. Beautifying your neighborhood certainly gives you a purpose.
posted by raspberrE at 10:41 AM on May 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

You mention that you're trying to build up your long-distance running and are super into productivity. I'll just mention that 5,000 steps is about 2.5 miles, which you could just jog in less than a half hour. If anything, it's the among the fastest ways to achieve your step goal.
posted by General Malaise at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

If your work from home arrangement isnt tied specifically to your home office (that is, you can bring it on a laptop) consider working in outside locations. Pick a coffee shop a half mile away from your house, bring your laptop, walk to the location and work for a bit (doesn't have to be whole day) , then walk back home will get you a minimum 5k
posted by Karaage at 11:01 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you garden at all? I have certain houses I like to walk by to see what their gardens are doing. I've just started taking pictures of the plants I like and add the date, location and where they are located (side of the house, by a wall where it gets radiated heat etc.) I'm planning to start a blog to keep track of them so I can know what plants do well and where in my neighborhood.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:04 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use my walking time to catch up on podcasts, so maybe that or audiobooks would be a great encouragement for you.

And be sure to play around with it! For more casual walks, anything too engaging could literally stop me in my tracks or have me fiddling with the rewind button, so Comedy Bang! Bang! and the Dead Authors podcasts worked well, but when I started Couch25K they were too funny and I'd be doubled up laughing.

Seconding little things like parking farther away from entrances, which really adds up.

I love gadgets so a FitBit might be a good idea to buy and tie to this habit. The FitBit Alta looks really cool actually.

I have the cheaper, waterproof version because I'm hoping to start swimming again, but it does help to have the extra encouragement. I'm not socially-connected with anyone (yet!) but there are all kinds of buddy things you can do.

Oh and as silly as it sounds, Pokemon Go is also an incentive, but I live in a very active area. Maybe not so much if you're in a small town.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:07 AM on May 7, 2017

Coming up with silly games to motivate a walk is something I've enjoyed in the past. Some day, I'll be able to genuinely experience a dérive without a crutch, but figuring out where to go is harder than it seems. Some examples of silly games I and friends have played (few or none of which are original):

1. Every block: walk every single street in your city council district / the five square km region around your home / your city. Watching your gps tracker fill up with lines is fun.

2. Traffic signal games: If there is one walk signal, cross the street in that direction. If there is no walk signal, turn the corner without crossing the street. If there is more than one walk signal make U-turn. If there are no traffic signals, go straight. Continue until there are no more allowed options.

3. Obsessive catalogues: take a photo of every fire-escape / manhole cover / roadside electrical box / dry standpipe / security camera in your neighborhood. You can't return until you've found 100 new ones.

4. Hyperart curation: seek out and document Thomassons. You can't return until you've found two new ones. (Alternatively, you get a reward for each one you find.)

5. Unrepetition: for all your ordinary, walking-around trips, insist that you cannot ever repeat a path that you've already taken (except when late for an appointment.) For legs that must be repeated, you must add an equivalent length of new path to make up for it.

6. Not my stop: Every day, you must take the subway or bus to a station you've never been to before and walk home from it. Mark them on a map.
posted by eotvos at 11:19 AM on May 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

- (Dog walking sounds fun!!)
- Morning coffee + podcast/audiobook walks
- Go on walks with friends/family to parks/trails
- Walk to a deli to buy lunch/coffee
- Gardening/cleaning/tidying/doing laundry/organizing are forms of exercise (also productive)
- Are there clubs/societies nearby? I've heard of power walking clubs, run clubs and country walking clubs?
- Volunteering? Walking to the place where you volunteer and usually volunteering involves some physical activity
- Standing desk? Treadmill desk?
- Finding a few hobbies that are within walkable distance so you can walk to attend the class/meeting every week?
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 11:22 AM on May 7, 2017

I know you asked about ways to get out of the house, but since you said you like to be productive, I thought I'd throw out the idea of a treadmill desk. They are pricey, but if it's something you will use regularly, it could definitely help increase your daily activity. I've heard good things from people who have added them to their workstations.
posted by bluloo at 11:27 AM on May 7, 2017

Response by poster: bluloo, excellent idea. A standing/height adjustable desk might help as well. Just standing is already better than sitting. And then I'm more likely to walk around when calling (I have wireless headphones)
posted by wolfr at 11:31 AM on May 7, 2017

Best answer: I wonder if there's a volunteer agency that could hook you up with a senior who needs checking in on? The sense of obligation would get you out the door every day and you might make all the difference in someone's life.
posted by HotToddy at 12:13 PM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I sometimes walk in place during the nightly news -- that's 30 minutes when I would be sitting on my keister, so why not? Or I walk around the house during the commercial breaks. Music videos? YouTube videos of nature?
Otherwise there are some parks and biking trails where I get my miles in. The big box stores, malls and community colleges are possibilities in bad weather.
I like walking at sunrise or sunset, or under a full moon. I like noting the neighborhood gardens, identifying trees and shrubs, listening to birdsong. I count cats.

My husband is reveling in neighborhood garage sales this spring. We have a large flea market that is open on weekends year-round. Back in the day, he took walks with a coworker during lunch.
posted by TrishaU at 12:37 PM on May 7, 2017

Two things that work for me gettingmy steps in 1. All phone call are made or take on a walk. If someone calls me I put on my shoes and head out and if I want to catch up with friends I put on my shoes and head out.

2. Habit. 1,000 steps is about a 5-15 minute walk. Starting your day with your regular route would be a great way to get out there, wake up, and make sure it happens. You could also make a "don't break the chain" chart if that feels more productive to you.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:58 PM on May 7, 2017

Response by poster: raccoon409 - I was literally going to chart this on a whiteboard :D 5000 starting today
posted by wolfr at 1:18 PM on May 7, 2017

I also listen to podcasts when I walk. There are podcasts on every possible topic, if you dig you could find one about whatever field you are in.
posted by radioamy at 2:25 PM on May 7, 2017

I am a productivity guy so I don't really want to "waste time" during my work days. The audio book thing might work... or some science podcast. This will make the walks less "boring".

There is a useful podcast these days for almost every field. There may well be one that can help you stay on top of your work.

Meetings? I used to do walking meetings with people at work. A walking phone meeting is something you could try.

Mail? Always walk to send mail rather than leave it at your home mailbox. Or get a PO Box and pick up the mail by walking to it.
posted by Miko at 4:01 PM on May 7, 2017

Just one more... block; trip around the block; song; minute; etc.

My walks used to take me into a canyon, and one day I decided I wanted to be able to run back up a certain part. The road was bordered by a series 10-foot long traffic barricades and every day I'd try to run just one barracade. Sometimes it took a few days, and then I moved on to the the next one, until I could run to the top. Small goals.

On walks, sometimes I play the car game (this is LA, after all): at the start of each block I start deciding which car I would want, but once I pick a car I can't change it until the next block. You could do that with houses or gardens, if you change up your route.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:06 PM on May 7, 2017

It's easier for me to plan using time instead of steps. These are for a ~2'7½" stride and 3mph walking speed:

    10,000 steps = 5 miles = 1 hour 40 minutes

My wife gets in thousands of steps a day listening to audio books.
posted by davcoo at 6:01 PM on May 7, 2017

I was just informed by my new PT that walking my dog was not a good way to get purposeful cardiac related walking done. She said dogs sniff and pee, making the walking stop and go. She's right. When I walk for exercise he stays home. I walk very little for exercise.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:40 PM on May 7, 2017

I got a Fitbit Alta in late January after being intrigued by a discussion on MeFi. On days when I'm working from the office, I walk to work so get my steps in easily. However, for the first couple of weeks after I got the device I was working from home and it was a shock to discover how little I was walking on those days. By the end of the first week I'd developed the routine of going out for a 50 minute walk as soon as I got up, so that I reached my target before breakfast, and I've been keeping that up ever since. I do more-or-less the same route every time, though I am building up a list of minor variants, and while it is a very pleasant route with great features that I look forward to sharing with friends, I do rely on podcasts to keep myself motivated. I've been getting some great podcast recommendations here, too, and am clearly never going to run out of listening material.

I turned off the "let's move" notifications after the first couple of weeks, though they were useful in the beginning for helping me realise that I found it frustrating to spread out my exercise throughout the day, and that it suited me much better to get up extra-early and meet my target before I started work.
posted by kelper at 1:19 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I work from home too so I know your pain in trying to get in steps. I have a Fitbit and really love it for tracking, do note that the iphone at least consistently under-counts steps by about 25-30%! I'm not sure how good other phones are.

I either get up early and take a 30-min walk directly after getting up, and/or I go for a shorter walk just before going to my desk to work. It's my equivalent of a commute to get my head in the game for work. I also like to go for a walk right after work to decompress and make a break between work and home. I usually only have about 10 minutes for the after-work walk but a longer one would be much better. My schedule doesn't usually allow it, but if it does, a short walk in the afternoon, either after lunch or around 2pm when I'm getting bored, is nice. I'd love to walk during meetings but I often need to refer to documents, etc, so I can't, but if you can that is a great way to do it.

I have a standing desk and it doesn't help me take any more steps, but I do feel more energetic and have fewer back aches when I stand.

One of my favorite things about daily walks is noticing how things change with the seasons. YMMV but I love seeing the differences day to day, especially now - I can see things budding and blooming in the afternoon that hadn't been in the morning!
posted by john_snow at 8:24 AM on May 8, 2017

"By nature I am a productivity guy so I don't really want to "waste time" during my work days. The audio book thing might work... or some science podcast. This will make the walks less "boring"."

So am I, and I absolutely do my best problem solving while getting outside and walking while listening to nothing. Extend your workday a bit if you walk and feel like you're not "working" enough.

I love gadgets so a FitBit might be a good idea to buy and tie to this habit. The FitBit Alta looks really cool actually.

This is what changed for me. I wear a watch, so a pedometer (Fitbit One) was the best choice for me. It's an additional thing to remember, but having an easily accessible number is really worthwhile in tracking where you are in terms of your daily steps. I don't turn on the "move" reminders. I just have a habit of looking at the number, and that's enough.

For me, 5,000 steps is 50 minutes of walking. 10 minutes before I start working, 10 minutes when I finish, and three 10 minute walks would get me there. 10 minutes is definitely doable!
posted by cnc at 9:02 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some of my friends enjoy geocaching as basically an excuse to get out and walk and explore different places.
posted by flug at 10:47 AM on May 8, 2017

When I worked from home, I found I worked longer hours (since no commute) and was terrible at taking breaks and moving much during the day. I started scheduling a 15-minute "meeting" with myself every afternoon (usually at 2 PM) during which I'd get out of the house, walk around the block, and clear my head. If the weather was nice and time allowed, I'd often go a bit farther. I found it greatly improved my productivity for the rest of the day, and it was a great chance to think about work problems without the multi-tasking distractions of multiple screens.

For a two-year period, I had a friend who was in a similar situation, so we shared a tiny rented office in a co-locating/tech incubator space. This was even better, as it was a 15-minute walk from my house, giving me 30 minutes of walking on each day I used it, while putting definitive start and end points on my day. I'd typically go 2-3 days a week.
posted by writermcwriterson at 11:16 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you consider walking a waste of time, this article may change your mind.

If all you are looking for is gamification, look into The Walk.
posted by WCityMike at 4:09 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding photography. I'm lucky - I live in a city with great architecture, so I can go to different neighborhoods and take pictures of the buildings, which gives me a lot of motivation to get out and walk. If you can pick some interesting places to photograph that are progressively farther away from you, that could help. (Also, since you like to be productive - do include podcasts, as suggested above; I get a lot of foreign language practice in on my way to and from my photography destinations.)
posted by kristi at 10:31 AM on May 11, 2017

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