Last January, in episode 252 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, Elizabeth and I issued a challenge to ourselves and our listeners: to walk for 20 minutes every day in 2020.
We chose this challenge because one of the most straightforward, manageable things that just about anyone can do is to walk 20 minutes each day.
Research makes it clear that exercise boosts our health. Active people have lower incidences of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, and Type 2 diabetes, and usually live longer than people who are sedentary. Exercise improves circulation and posture, as well as focus, energy, restful sleep, and creativity. Exercise makes people less likely to develop depression, reduces anxiety, and is linked to happy moods. (If you'd like to read more about this science, check out Shane O'Mara's In Praise of Walking: The New Science of How We Walk and Why It's Good for Us [Amazon, Bookshop] or Kelly McGonigal's The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage [Amazon, Bookshop].)
But despite these benefits, many of us don't get much physical activity, and in fact, many Americans are completely sedentary.
Encouragingly, studies show when we go from no activity to a little activity, we get great benefits. And if we're already exercising, add more movement to our day is still going to give us a boost.
Elizabeth and I loved the idea of a "20 in 2020" challenge, and so did many listeners.
Little did we know that 2020 would be the year of the pandemic. We've heard from so many people that the daily twenty-minute walk has been a crucial habit for helping them to stay calm, grounded, and healthy during the fear and anxiety of this time.
We've heard about happy dogs, spouses who joined in, "stacks" of audio-books and podcasts enjoyed, better sleep, weight loss, visits to interesting new places, times of welcome solitude away from a busy household...people have found so many different benefits in this simple practice.
One listener shared this story:
I started in January in Chicago. I’ve done all my walking outside, snow, sleet, rain, heat- you name it, I have walked in it! However that 20 minutes has turned into 5-8 miles a day! The impact has been HUGE! I am a Type 2 diabetic and am now off insulin! It has connected our family. We started a family chat where we all post our numbers each day. This accountability has been great for a family of obligers. All of us have increased our step count. Some of our friends have heard about it and started family step challenges of their own!
It has helped me achieve two other goals - I’ve lost almost 40 pounds and I either pair the walking with listening to podcasts or audio books, I have been able to read 25 books so far in 2020.
I got such a boost reading about these wonderful accomplishments!
We want to hear your stories of success to share on the podcast, for an episode we're planning for late November! Please send in your success story. We can all learn from each other, and it will be so invigorating to hear people's experiences and benefits from walking.
What's more, hearing these stories will likely to inspire new people to try a twenty-minute (or 21?) daily walk in 2021, and help encourage people walking in 2020 to keep up this habit for the new year.
If you didn't #Walk20in20, don't feel discouraged. Now is always the right time to begin. (If you hear me discuss one of my favorite aphorism, one that illustrates this principle, listen to my "Little Happier: What's the Best Time to Plant a Tree?")
Get your gold star, share your success story!
Post your story in the comments here, on social media using #Walk20in20, or email us at [email protected].
Wondering whether we'll announce a "21in21" challenge? Yes, we will, and boy it's a good one (can you guess?). Stay tuned for that announcement.
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