As with many years in the past, I began last year with a New Year’s resolution. Despite a relatively active lifestyle, I had gained a couple pounds per year for the last decade. I discovered that this can happen when your age creeps up while your metabolism slows down. So I resolved that I was going to walk 3 miles a day in 2015.
I stuck with my goal for a couple of months. But, as often happens, my resolve was challenged. Sometimes I was traveling and couldn’t find the time. Or I was staying in a motel on a major arterial road, and there was no safe place to walk. On other days, I just didn’t feel like it.
This went on for months. I didn’t stick to my resolution, but I never abandoned it either.
Then in May, it all changed. On a whim, I bought myself a Fitbit—a high-tech pedometer that I wear on my wrist to track my daily steps and mileage. The device uploads the data to my smart phone and computer. I set a new goal of walking 10,000 steps and 5 miles a day.
This was daunting because I hadn’t been able to consistently meet my 3-mile-per-day goal. But by effortlessly logging my walking, the device began to change my behavior. Instead of struggling to find time to walk, I built it into my day. I now often walk 4 miles a day as part of my round-trip commute to my office. I walk a mile every day at lunch. On many nights, I take a walk after dinner. It has become such an ingrained habit that I always feel like it.
Since May, I have walked an average of 7 miles per day. I’ve lost all of the weight that I gained in the last decade. And I have never felt better.
It’s true that I engage in other forms of physical activity, and I’m now more careful with my diet. But there is no doubt that regular walking has been the biggest single factor in my weight loss.
My personal experience with walking has made me even more aware of the importance of trails in our communities. In some places, trails connect residences to schools, giving children the opportunity to safely walk to school. In others, they provide families or senior citizens a safe and pleasant place to spend time together while building a healthy walk into their daily routine.
The U.S. Surgeon General recently reaffirmed the benefits of this universal activity in his recent Call to Action on Walking, where he encouraged everyone to make it a part of their daily life, and to get involved in building more walkable communities.
I plan to do so and continue the progress I’ve made over the past year. My resolution for 2016 is to walk an imaginary trail 2,000 miles long and maintain my current weight. I encourage you to join me by finding your personal goal: 500 miles? 2,500 miles? Make it your own.
You don’t need a Fitbit, but if you have one, we can even track our progress together via the RTC Fitbit group.
Best of luck to you in 2016. See you on the trail!