1. The Meet-You-There Walk
Instead of driving with your spouse to the market or some other nearby destination, leave a bit early on foot and meet him there, then catch a ride back home.
First step: If you normally walk a three-mile loop in the neighborhood, draw a circle on a map extending that far out in all directions from your home. This is your sphere of possibility (and it’ll grow larger as you get fitter). The feeling and purpose you’ll gain from doing this kind of walk will eventually lead to …
2. The Errand Walk
Instead of walking to get in shape, once or twice a week, walk to get things done. The ATM, the supermarket, the post office, the nail salon. This is healthy, stress-free multitasking at its best.
First step: You’ll need something to carry your stuff, so get a backpack, or buy a chic and eco-friendly market basket (try medinabaskets.com).
3. The Reverse Walk
We are creatures of habit. Break yours by occasionally walking your normal route in the other direction. It not only beats boredom, but it’ll wake you up to the world around you by helping you see things from fresh angles.
First step: Go left instead of right when you take your first step. Make a point to notice three things you never observed from the opposite direction.
4. The Boss Walk
When it’s time for your next one-on-one with your boss, suggest something that will get your supervisor’s attention. Instead of sitting in her office where you may feel intimidated and she may be distracted by incoming emails, suggest that the two of you go for a walk.
First step: If she likes the idea, tell her you have many, many more—and then share your best and brightest brainstorms as you stroll.
Content continues below ad
5. The Rainy Day Walk
At the first sign of drizzle, many people go into hibernation. But there’s something about walking in the rain that is simultaneously calming and exhilarating.
First step: Leave the umbrella in the closet. Instead, pull on some rain boots or waterproof shoes and a big slicker with a hood. Occasionally turn to the sky to catch a few raindrops on your tongue.
6. The I'm-So-Mad Walk
When something is making you angry, hit the road instead of the wall. You’ll not only get a great physical workout because the adrenaline will make you walk faster, but you’ll also burn off some of the stress hormones coursing through your body.
First step: So as not to attract undue attention by ranting, raving, and gesturing to yourself, invite a coworker, friend, or family member who understands the situation to join you. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the miles roll by and how much better you feel afterward.
7. The Better-Marriage Walk
Worried that you and your spouse don’t really talk anymore? Walking together can help. Exercise makes us more open, emotional, and honest, plus it guarantees full attention (no TV, iPad, or BlackBerry!).
First step: Keep it low-key to start. Talk about things you notice along the way, interesting items in the news, etc. Then once he’s warmed up, broach the more serious stuff. If you’re lucky, this outing will eventually morph into …
8. The Better-Sex Walk
Believe it or not, the tongue is the most important sex organ (and no, not in that way!). Communication promotes closeness. Plus, exercise naturally spikes libido by making us more aware of our bodies and helping us feel better about ourselves.
First step: Work up a sweat! That healthy glow is sexy. And don’t be shy about occasionally talking suggestively. You’ll both pick up the pace as you make the turn for home.
Content continues below ad
9. The Virtual Walk
Studies show that you can actually get muscle fibers to fire by imagining yourself performing an activity. It’s the same technique that basketball players use to mentally rehearse foul shots.
First step: On days when you’re too busy to escape a walk, at least spend a few quiet minutes with your eyes closed envisioning yourself striding strongly and purposefully. It will help you develop muscle memory that’ll make you more efficient when you do get out for a walk.
10. The Mini-Walk
If your day is too packed for your typical 45-minute walk, then take just three separate 15-minute strolls. You’ll derive just as much health benefit, plus you’ll keep your metabolism cranking throughout the day so you burn more calories.
First step: Look for opportunities to be “active” rather than to “exercise.” That’s a key difference. The latter often feels like an interruption to the day, while the former is a natural part of it. Shift your mind-set.
11. The Teenager Walk
This is similar to the Better-Marriage Walk in that you’re essentially taking someone who is uncommunicative and getting him to open up.
First step: Tell your moody teen that you’re going to the supermarket and ask if he’d like to come along and pick out some food. When he heads for the car, tell him you’re walking and invite him along. Bingo.
12. The Figure-It-Out Walk
There’s something about putting one foot in front of the other that focuses the mind and brings clarity. A problem that might have overwhelmed you originally, or one that appeared to have no clear solution will often solve itself during a walk.
First step: Don’t dwell on the problem. Instead, think about it to start, then let it go. Your subconscious will keep working on it, and before long, a solution will appear. Magical.
Content continues below ad
13. The Spiritual Walk
Spiritual contemplation doesn’t have to take place in a church or temple. This weekend, take a walk in the big cathedral that’s all around you—the one too many of us overlook.
First step: Think about what you’re thankful for, or make the time holy by dedicating it to a loved one or someone who’s struggling. Solitary, mindful walking can be just as meditative as prayer.
14. The Going-Nowhere-Fast Walk
For those days when the weather is bleak, head to the gym or your spare bedroom for a treadmill walk. No groaning, please. We know how boring this can be. So…
First step: Get a large-scale map of your state or some exotic country. Then after each workout, highlight the distance you’ve covered across it. The next time someone asks you how you got in such great shape, you can reply: “By walking the Appalachian Trail.”
15. The Park and Walk
Live too far from work to commute by foot? Then occasionally drive until you’re a mile away, park, and walk the rest. You’ll get your exercise almost without realizing it, save gas, and build a stress-easing buffer around your workday.
First step: Keep a few days’ worth of clothes in your office. Dress in casual clothes and walking shoes, then change into your business clothes at the office.
16. The Best-Sleep Walk
Most Americans are chronically sleep deprived. In fact, because of things like stress and caffeine, many of us have become incapable of getting the restful zzz’s we need. Walking is one of the best ways to relax and usher in a good night’s sleep.
First step: Schedule a stroll between 4 and 7 p.m. Your body temperature is highest then, your muscles are warmest, and you’ll have plenty to mull over from the day. The resulting calm will help you drift off at bedtime.