If reaping the amazing health benefits that come with regular walking is your goal, here are two key steps to make that happen: Get out the door today, and get out the door every day for the next 65 days. That, at least, is what one bedrock study on the psychology of habit found really makes this kind of regular practice part of your routine.
"It is only when you repeatedly take steps on a consistent basis that change begins to happen,” Portland, Ore.–based walking coach Judy Heller explains.
So what should your daily walk look like? That part is more individual. “With some people, just getting out the door and walking to the end of the driveway and back is an accomplishment,” Heller says. And that's OK. What's important is figuring out the length, time and type of walk that works for you (maybe strolling every other day for 66 days is more realistic). Your focus should be on upping the chances that your new routine will take hold. These strategies can help.
Accept where you are. “If you can only walk 15 minutes in the morning, just do it,” says Michele Stanten, an American Council on Exercise–certified fitness instructor and walking coach. “It doesn't matter if you do it all in one chunk or break it all up.” In fact, one study published in Diabetes Care found that people who walked on a treadmill for 15 minutes after meals regulated their blood sugar as well as those who walked continuously for 45 minutes.
Don't compare yourself with anyone else or focus on anyone else's accomplishments. “When the emphasis is on self-criticism, people stay stuck where they are,” Heller says. “Self-acceptance is the right frame of mind from which to grow. Value and appreciate your body for what it can do, when it can do it.”
Keep it doable. Once you lace up and head out, give yourself a little slack at first. “You don't have to do more and go faster right now,” Heller emphasizes. “You can add more time and increase your pace in weekly increments, if you want. Even just adding two minutes to your walking the week after you start is a success."