Even if you held to an exercise schedule during the long pandemic, it’s time to move more and override the child who says, “I don’t want to go for a walk.” Surprising new insights into the benefits of walking and step-by-step motivation to walk more for you and your children–including new ways to encourage them.
Whether you rarely walk, usually walk solo or with friends, push a stroller or have young children or teens at your side, think about walking not only as exercise to keep you healthy, but also to give your children important tools they will use for their lifetime.
Annabel Streets, the author of 52 Ways to Walk, says, “You actually can get more from life, one step at a time” and she proves it with evidence and mountains of tips from how to pick up your pace, walk in the wind or rain or use your sense of smell during a walk.
Your children might enjoy singing while they walk or walking in the mud with you. I’ve added suggestions to Street’s findings to make walks more appealing and fun for kids.
Grab a Kid and Get Moving
Anyone of these health facts from her book just might get you off your couch or desk chair and out the door more often…bringing your children with you.
- We walk faster when we walk with a purpose. When we have a reason for walking (a place to be, a time to meet), we effortlessly pick up our pace. Our usual saunter becomes a brisk stride, boosting both heart and lungs.
Instead of driving, for instance, you might walk your child to a friend’s house assuming that home is a reasonable distance. Or choose a destination—a store, a relative’s house, a park, the promise of a breakfast or lunch when you reach your destination. Young children typically are delighted to visit a place or someone who is special to them.
- A twelve-minute walk—not hours—is all it takes to cut our risk of an early death. Researchers found that after twelve minutes of brisk walking, hundreds of beneficial metabolites begin circulating in our bodies – instantly cutting our chances of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and inflammation.
Children are more apt to agree to a short walk if you make them responsible for setting a timer—six minutes out, six minutes back. Letting a child monitor a watch or cellphone timer and pace you will engage them.
- When we walk in the cold, with our collar bones exposed, we burn through fat at an unprecedented rate. A flash of cold activates our reserves of Brown Adipose Tissue, a rich layer of fat-burning cells that sit in pockets round our neck and shoulders. Unwrap your scarf.
Keep the children bundled up! Most kids adore competition so drum up a few to spur them on: Finding a certain color leaf or rock, spotting birds, picking up litter (with gloved hands), racing you or a sibling a short distance to a tree or landmark that’s in view.
- An early morning walk helps us sleep better at night. Exposing our eyes to sunlight within an hour of waking reminds our brain that it’s morning, enabling our daily internal clock to set in motion the cascade of hormones that will help us fall asleep in the evening.
You may have to go this one alone. But, if you can get your children out first thing with you, they might sleep better as well. As an alternative, try an early evening walk with the kids—before or after dinner.
Consider changing your route and even the people you walk with unless those walking companions are your children. After the long pandemic, new approaches to walking are the step-by-step motivation we all need.
For more suggestions on walking your or someone else’s dog, walking to jog your creativity or to improve your memory or walking in a new city, see Anabel Street’s 52 Ways to Walk: The Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time