15. Formalize your new walking club. Arrange to convene at a local coffee shop following your first or second walk. Hand out name tags and have a sign-in sheet for everyone to list their names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses so you can contact them about future walks. Next discuss how often you’ll walk, when and where to meet, what to do in case of bad weather, the speed of the walk, and the distance you’ll cover. If you have a large group, consider breaking into smaller groups based on fitness level, availability, or other factors.
16. Look for ways to motivate the group. You might choose a name for your walking crew, order shirts, have a monthly potluck (healthy of course), enter a walking event with a cause, or set goals to increase the length of your walks or your walking pace. Share the responsibility by asking each member to lead some of the walks and have them plan the route.
17. Use your car to clock errands you could do on foot. Put a sticky note on your dashboard that says “Clock a route” to remind you to check the mileage on all the places you typically go in a day. Is the library a mile away? How about the ATM? Many people don’t realize how many errands could be done on foot with a little planning, says Mark Fenton, world-renowned environmental walking coach.
18. Grab binoculars and go bird watching. You can pick up a beginning birding book at a local bookstore. Look for one that includes birds in your region. It’s a great way to enjoy nature and connect with wildlife right in your own community. Observing the beauty of birds and discussing them with friends, neighbors, or your children can be a fun and stimulating experience. Interacting with nature tends to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and help people relax.
19. Put a “Could I walk or ride my bike?” sticky note on your front door. Having a prompt (like the famous string around the finger) in plain view will cue you to ask yourself if you really need to hop in your car to take the books back to the library, pick up a prescription, or visit a friend. Post a second note on your dash that says “Could I walk halfway?” so you’ll be encouraged to park a few blocks from whatever errand you’re running.
20. Go on a village scavenger hunt. Whether you have kids, grandkids, nieces, or nephews, this activity never fails: Jot a list that includes items such as five red cars, three houses with yellow daisies, two cats, four stop signs, and so on. After you’ve compiled several “treasures” for the kids to find, head out around the neighborhood until you’ve found all the items on the list. You can make several lists and have friendly competitions. The first one to complete the list wins.
21. Make after-dinner walks a regular habit. Instead of collapsing in front of the TiVo, create a tradition of post-meal strolls with a partner. If you have young kids, you can play games to keep the little ones entertained. Remember the Alphabet Game during long family car trips? You can play it while walking. Look for signs, bumper stickers, and personalized license plates on cars, and watch for words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Once you’ve found one letter, move on to the next.
22. Make a list of five active things you can do in your community. Hang the list on your fridge, and when you’re out of ideas for an active weekend activity, look to your list. For example, you could bike to a local park for a picnic, hoof it to the library, or plan to meet friends at a halfway location to which you can both walk.
23. Have a monthly trash patrol day. Grab a shopping bag and head out around your block for 20 minutes. Rope in a few neighbors to join you. Every time you have to bend to pick up an article, turn the move into a squat: Extend your buttocks behind you and pretend you’re about to sit in an invisible chair until your upper legs are almost parallel to the ground. You’ll build leg muscles and sculpt your rear view. Building muscle helps the body become more insulin sensitive, and it boosts your metabolism.
24. Lace up walking shoes for active living every day. You may think that any old shoe is fine, but footwear designed for walking will encourage you to move more and will decrease your risk of injury. A good shoe should be flexible in the ball of the foot, but not in the arch. (A shoe that bends in the arch can put strain on tendons in the feet.) The heel should be cushioned (because that’s where your foot strikes) and also rounded to encourage an easy and speedy heel-toe motion. It’s best to visit a local, independently owned running store. Whether you have low or high arches, the salespeople in a competent technical fitness store will watch you walk barefoot and help you choose the features you need.
25. Burn calories at the little ones’ soccer games. Instead of taking your folding chair and a crossword puzzle, wear comfortable shoes and take a jaunt around the field during soccer or baseball games when your child isn’t playing. You can still cheer while in motion. Or take your walk before the game starts, when the kids are warming up. Remember, physical activity enhances the action of insulin (the hormone that lowers your blood sugar), which often results in better blood sugar control.