I've been talking about walking more for quite some time now. I'm obese (to put it lightly) and depressed. Since exercise tends to assist in resolving both of these issues, I've known that I should be doing it more. I've also read (though I cannot for the life of me remember where) that there's some psychological benefit to being outdoors more often than my lifestyle usually allows.
For the past two years, I've lived within two and a half miles of my workplace. I've been saying that I will start walking to work for this time period, but I've never really followed through. Not until August, at least. I always had some excuse for why it was a bad time for me. I've been dealing with an ankle injury for about five years. This injury causes some serious pain when I walk too much. Also, the summers here in Houston are killer. I've always perceived it to be too hot to walk any sort of distance.
However, in August, I realized that if I kept making excuses, I would never accomplish any goal I have towards engaging in exercise more often. During the hottest portion of the summer, in temperatures exceeding 100°F, I started walking to work. I haven't done it every day, but I've kept doing it. I've started to walk other places as well. Every other Friday, I'm off from work, and so I am able to walk to my weekly therapy session on those Fridays. My therapist's office is three miles away, so I'm doing a six mile round trip during the hottest portion of the day.
Today, I walked to the grocery store to get some food and supplies. I've learned that while it's nice to have a little cart to put my groceries in, it's also painful to load said cart up with cat litter and jugs of orange juice and other heavy things. My elbows are still killing me from pulling that load behind me.
But, I'm still glad I walked. Walking there improved my mood a great deal. I also realized yesterday, that while it doesn't seem like I have made a lot of progress as far as my weight loss journey, that there have been some other physical benefits gained from walking. My endurance has increased; it used to be that I was unable to go up stairs without gasping for breath. Now, I am quite comfortable doing so. My ankle seems to act up less now, as I do not have to wear an ankle brace any more. What used to seem like a long distance for me (½ a mile) now seems like an incredibly short walk.
My current challenge is to find the fine line between pushing myself, and over-doing it. The other day, all I had eaten was a peanut butter sandwich. I went geocaching with a friend, and we walked several miles while doing so. I ended up feeling somewhat sick. I ended up going to a fast food place and binge-eating. This made me feel pretty guilty afterwards, and so undid both the mental and physical benefits of the exercise. So, I'm trying hard to realize what my physical needs are, to prevent a repeat performance.
Thinking of starting to walk? If anyone is on the fence about walking, I can only suggest that you get out there and start doing it. Make sure you have good shoes, because one of my biggest regrets was trying to walk in shoes not made for walking. This caused me pain that could have easily been avoided. I'm on a tight budget, so I can understand how some may be hesitant to go out and get some shoes. Academy usually has good quality walking / running shoes for a descent price. (I'm partial to asics).
And don't give up after just one or two tries. It's difficult to get in the habit of walking at first, but after some time, you'll start enjoying yourself and stop thinking of it as a chore, and rather, something to look forward to. If you're the bookish type, try bringing a book along and reading as you walk. You'll figure out how to keep one eye on the sidewalk, and one on the book relatively easily. Also, I strongly recommend music. If you are a fan of techno / dance music, a good site to try is Motion Traxx. They make free mixes for various speeds of running, but I've found that it works well to keep your rhythm for walking.