Without a doubt, fall is one of the best times of year to get outdoors. Cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage are the perfect incentives to go for a walk or assemble the family for a hike. Adding a daily walk to your routine can also keep your stress levels low, improve heart health, and help you shed pounds.
Plus, if walking isn’t already baked into your routine, this is the best time to get started so the habit is formed before the chill and winter elements arrive. Use these walking goals to stay motivated and improve your endurance and overall health.
To ensure you can keep up your new walking routine through the winter and beyond, use this time of year to experiment and find alternative options to your usual route. This can include a different park or hiking trail, a track at a local high school or college, or even reversing your route around the neighborhood. Varying your terrain can challenge different muscles and it also keeps things interesting and helps you stay excited to go for a daily walk — regardless of the weather.
Some of the best walking events are held at the end of the year (Think: Thanksgiving Turkey Trots and Jingle Bell 5Ks), and many are virtual this year, so you can do them anywhere. Find a race that suits your fitness level and focus on having fun instead of taking things too seriously with lofty time goals. Reaching the finish line of your first 5K or 10K is a motivating experience that propels you toward your next walking goal, which might take you further or faster.
Getting family members involved in your daily walks helps hold you accountable and also provides quality bonding time. Who knows — maybe your positive influence will rub off on your loved ones and end up helping them get in better shape, too. Check out these methods for getting your partner on board, how to walk with a stroller, and tips for keeping the kids engaged. Even four-legged friends can be great walking partners. Make it a family goal to explore new national parks and keep it exciting by making it a treasure hunt for beautiful leaves and abundant wildlife.
If you want to take the next step and get more serious about your walking fitness, diet is crucial. With the holidays right around the corner, it’s important to use this time to dial in on your nutrition and kick common bad habits that can set you back. It can be easy to overdo it on fall treats like Halloween candy and sugary drinks (looking at you pumpkin spice lattes). An easy place to start is by keeping a food log with an app like MyFitnessPal, which tracks how many calories you’re consuming and burning. Once you have an idea of your intake, you can make smart changes, like cutting back on soda and drinking more water.
There’s nothing like immersing yourself in vibrant foliage and breathing in the crisp fall air, which is why it pays to make the effort to find a patch of nature. Research shows spending more time in nature has tangible health benefits including boosting energy and mood levels and improving concentration. Make it a goal to get out into nature at least twice a week (hello, Saturday and Sunday). Parks, hiking trails or even a short trip to a different side of town for a multi-use path are just a few ways to take advantage of Mother Nature.
While walking is a great low-impact exercise, it’s still possible to get injured if you’re neglecting cross-training. Strengthening your body with complementary activities like yoga, cycling or weightlifting keeps you healthy and helps build muscle, which means you’ll reach your goals even faster. Mixing up your routine also keeps things fun, so now is the ideal time to experiment with different forms of exercise to find what you enjoy the most — in addition to walking. When you’re enjoying the outdoors on a walk, take some time to do a few bodyweight moves like pushups on a park bench.
If you’ve seen a plateau in your fitness recently, consider varying your walking pace to include some faster, high-intensity intervals. Walking at a faster pace burns more calories, improves cardiovascular endurance and supports longevity — and the cooler fall temps makes it easier to push yourself. It can be as simple as upping your pace for 30 seconds every 5 minutes during your normal walks or you can try this 4-week intro to HIIT walking plan.
Tack on another 1–2 miles to every weekend long walk. Setting new distance goals is motivating for training and cementing consistent walking habits, especially on days when you don’t feel like lacing up. Stock up on a few must-have layers and you’ll be good to go for a longer duration in brisk fall weather.
While recovery is important for all fitness levels, as your walking workouts become longer and more intense, it’s a good idea to dedicate more time to keeping your body healthy. This means getting enough sleep, following a stretching routine and paying attention to pre- and post-workout nutrition.
Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.