In an effort to help the planet, my challenge in January was to walk exclusively for all trips less than five kilometres. With the month now over, I’d like to reflect on some of my results.
After tallying the data from my trusty pedometer, I learned that I took almost a quarter million steps in the month. The steps really do add up! Simply by abstaining from vehicles, I walked a total of 185 kilometres over a span of 40 hours. That’s equivalent to 4.4 marathons, or travelling from downtown Vancouver to Everett, Washington.
On average, I walked six kilometres per day (80 minutes), which exceeds the recommended daily quota for a “physically active” lifestyle. Knowing that I can meet my daily quota for physical activity while commuting is a big incentive to walk more. [I deliberately refrained from taking recreational walks all month so that I could more accurately observe the benefits of walking for transportation purposes. Thankfully, January in Vancouver isn’t the most pleasant month for leisurely strolls.]
During the month I burned an average of 400 kcalories per day, which is equal to 0.8 lbs of fat per week. It’s helpful to put this in context with other forms of exercise. To burn the same amount of calories, you would need to do 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity cardio exercises like running, or 45 minutes of circuit training or calisthenic exercises, every single day of the month. Though it takes longer to burn the same amount of calories, walking is easier, less stressful on the body, and doesn’t require any special equipment, fitness clothing or costly gym memberships. Also, walking is an easier pill to swallow than more strenuous exercises, like running or going to a spin class. The adage “no pain, no gain” doesn’t really come to mind when heading out for a walk.
From purely a time management perspective, it’s important to remember that walking serves two purposes at once: transportation and exercise. Sure, circuit training will burn 400 kcalories in half the time as walking, but it won’t get you to the grocery store. In addition to the 45 minutes needed to do the exercises, you still need to use time out of your day for all your travel needs. In fact, circuit training may even add to your daily travel requirements if you have to make a separate trip to the gym. On top of that, you’ll likely need to take time to shower and freshen up after your workout. If you factor in the total time out of your day for both transportation and exercise, you may be surprised at how time effective walking can be. Taking a more holistic outlook of time management might be the most important lesson I’ve learned from this month’s challenge. It certainly has made me rethink how I make daily choices about travel and fitness.
Take the Challenge
Want to try this challenge for yourself? Here are some suggestions:
- Set the parameters – my rule was to walk for all trips under five kilometres. Of course, you can adapt the challenge to reflect your personal abilities. To see exactly how far a five kilometre walk will take you, check out this free online tool that maps a radius around a point.
- Get the right gear – use a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing and a rain jacket.
- Track your progress – use a pedometer to track your steps taken, distance, time and calories. Keeping track of these metrics is a fun and effective way to monitor your progress and track your performance. As the old adage goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
- Set a target – create a goal for yourself. This will help you to monitor how well you are doing versus a benchmark. For example, the health community recommends 6,000 steps a day to get the health benefits of walking, and 10,000-12,000 steps a day to lose weight. Every 2,000 steps take roughly 20 minutes.
- Look beyond the numbers – while counting your steps is helpful, don’t forget all the other benefits of walking, like increased energy, improved mood and less stress. Walking also lets you slow down and take in the scenic beauty of the city. As Albert Einstein said, “everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
- Walk with friends – go out for walks with friends, family or peers. It’s a good way to connect with others, boost your mood, and motivate you to walk more.
- Walk while you work – consider scheduling some of your work meetings as “walking meetings.” It is a great way to squeeze in a walk during a hectic day at the office. If it worked for Steve Jobs, it can work for you.