Fitness & workouts

7 ways to boredom-proof your outdoor walks

Get your steps in and stay inspired with these creative ideas from fitness trainers.

With gyms closed and fitness classes cancelled, staying active at the moment calls for either working out at home or getting out and about in the fresh air.

If you want to clear your head and feel like getting some fresh air, nothing beats a walk, whether that's round the block or a 10k ramble.

A brisk walk can be beneficial to your health. In fact, walking briskly for at least 30 minutes five times a week has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more (not to mention a boost in mood).

If you've got into walking (and many of us have since the COVID-19 crisis hit) but you've trodden the same path a lot lately, here's how to mix it up and maintain interest.

Tips for making outdoor walks more interesting

1. Add fresh moves

There's no need to map out a new route to break your rut. Charlee Atkins, CSCS, a New York City-based personal trainer and founder of the virtual fitness company Le Sweat, recommends mixing up steps with higher-intensity moves for variety. For example, try power walking as quickly as you can for 30 seconds, then drop back to your regular pace for a minute. Repeat for the duration of your walk. Or, pause for a quick set of lunges or jumping jacks every few minutes, says Albert Matheny, MS, RD, CSCS, co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab in New York City. In addition to fighting boredom, adding high-intensity intervals to a moderate workout may boost the cardiovascular benefits, according to a 2016 analysis in the Journal of Physiology.

2. Think chapters instead of steps

Measuring strolls in steps, miles, or minutes can start to feel like drudgery after a while. In that case, Atkins says you may have more fun marking the distance with help from podcasts and audiobooks. Instead of, say, deciding to walk two miles, commit to a walk that’s “one chapter long” or try trekking for a 30-minute episode of your favourite podcast

3. Practice mindfulness

Good news for the 99.999% of us who’ve been feeling on edge lately: merging a walk with meditative practices may help dial down stress, according to a 2013 study of 74 “high-stress” adults. Mindful walking includes focusing on your breaths, keying in to physical sensations (such as the feeling of a breeze on your face) and focusing on the present moment. Try it on your own, or follow a guided meditation through an app like Headspace. WW members can listen to curated mini meditations from Headspace for free in the WW app.

4. Play photographer

Snapping pictures during your walk can be a fun way to spark your creativity and see your surroundings with fresh eyes. Try assigning yourself a theme: today, for example, try photographing as many types of flowers as you can find. Next week, maybe point your lens at songbirds, or head out during golden hour to capture that amazing light. 

5. Pump your playlist

This tip is for you if you tend to lose steam on your walks. A small 2015 study suggests that listening to your favourite music may not only heighten overall enjoyment of a workout, but that enjoyment may actually rise as the workout goes on. Atkins recommends choosing songs with upbeat tempos, which may nudge you to maintain intensity. Or try an audio fitness app like Aaptiv, which gets you moving to music. WW members can access fun, specially curated Aaptiv workouts for free in the WW app. 

6. Tweak your timing 

If your schedule allows, heading out at a different time of day may revive your walking mojo. For instance, if you typically stroll in late afternoon, try first thing in the morning instead. Your favourite route may look a lot different when it’s sparkling with dewdrops and early light. If your route is circular, another idea is to walk in the reverse direction. Seeing the sights from another angle may inspire newfound appreciation for them.  

7. Reach out

Been meaning to check in on a relative or a friend lately? Use your next solo walk as a chance to call and catch up. Free of household distractions, you may be better able to tune into the conversation than you would otherwise. Know of a friend who lives along your route? Tell them you’ll be passing by so they can wave or say hi out the window, giving you a mini social boost to look forward to as you get those steps in.