At the start of the month, I set myself a goal to develop a more consistent walking habit. This was for several reasons:
I wanted to develop more of a routine before my second daughter is born
I sit down all day for my job, so a ~30 minute walk each day isn’t asking too much
I wanted to try and increase my cardio fitness level tracked through my Apple Watch
Before this, how often I walked fluctuated from week to week, but it’s something I enjoy doing so I figured it should be a relatively easy habit to develop.
What made it easier?
There were a couple of things that made this easier for me:
Listening to audiobooks whilst walking
Finding the right time to walk
Creating an incentive
Before covid, I’d regularly listen to audiobooks on my commute to work (I completed ~25 books between 2018 and 2020 which I wouldn’t have otherwise).
Since working from home from early 2020 (now self-employed), I haven’t been able to find a place in my schedule where listening to audiobooks works for me.
So I decided to try and stack my walking habit with listening to audiobooks.
I had the proof is in the plants on my radar from months prior so I grabbed a copy on Audible.
The proof is in the plants provides such a great overview of how a plant-based diet impacts our personal and planetary health. Simon also tackles the question of why there is so much conflicting information out there and uses science to back it up!
If you want to try listening to audiobooks, choose subjects you’re interested in, it could be;
and so on...
Don’t choose a book you’ll end up hating, just because you think you should – this should work as an aid and not a deterrent.
When to walk
The best time to walk is what works best for you. For me that is:
around lunch time
I’m more of a morning person and like to get out when things are quiet.
On top of this, it’s great to achieve something early in the day and not have to worry about it later.
Failing or in addition to a morning walk, next up would be lunchtime. Lunchtime walks have saved entire afternoons of work for me – as the break and fresh air helps to clear my head.
There’s also evidence that being out in nature helps to improve our mental health as mentioned in plant therapy.
Being surrounded by nature is both good for our mental and physical health. The evidence shows a clear link between being in nature and better sleep, reduced stress levels and much more.
Creating an incentive
A little incentive goes a long way, you can choose to either:
reward yourself for doing something
avoid losing something if you do what you said you’d do
Loss aversion (preferring to not lose what you already have, instead of gaining something you don’t have), is a very strong motivator.
For example, you could say;
if I go for a walk every day of the month, I’ll buy myself a new pair of shoes, or
if I don’t go for a walk every day of the month, I’ll give the money to charity
I decided to download the Treekly app – where they plant trees if you hit a certain step count (even on the free plan).
I chose to upgrade to the plus account, which meant I paid £3.99 a month, and for each day I did 5,000 steps they’d plant a tree.
Plant trees by walking
Weather you stick with the free plan, or upgrade to the paid version – you can turn your steps into trees all whilst creating a healthy habit.
Use what you have
When we look at starting new habits (especially exercise related), there’s often a lot of equipment and gadgets you could buy, but I’d encourage you, to try and use what you have.
There will be exceptions to this, depending on your circumstances and what you’re doing, but you can often do a lot with what you already have.
And once it’s become a habit, you can then reward yourself with some of those things you know will really help you.
If I keep my walking habit come April, I’ll reward myself by upgrading my shoes to something like Vivo Barefoot shoes – designed to be more like our natural foot.
Vivo barefoot shoes aim to provide protection to your feet and then get out of the way so your feet can do what they’re meant to.
Want to build better habits?
If you want to build better habits, like walking, consider changing some variables (depending on how new you are to it);
go for a 5-minute walk each day
go for 3 walks a week
work it into your routine e.g. walk the kids to school
Don’t overextend yourself in the beginning, start small and work your way up. These principles can be used for developing any habit.
If you want to learn more about building habits and sticking to them, I’d recommend grabbing yourself a copy of Atomic Habits. James talks about habit stacking, the compound effects of habits and much more.