So, you want to start walking, but when should you hit the path? Is it better to rise before the sun and hit the trail, or does an afternoon walk after work yield greater benefits? What if you’re a night owl? Learn the benefits of walking during different parts of the day and what factors you should take into consideration before setting your schedule.
While nature walks make for a great hobby, most people begin a regular walking regimen in order to boost their health. Therefore, the first consideration when choosing when to walk is what time of day will yield the most benefits. It turns out, however, that walking at different times of day may provide walkers with very different keys to success.
Studies show that morning walkers are the most likely to stick to their habit. Since most people control the beginning of their day rather than the end, this makes sense for scheduling and energy. After all, you never know what you’re day at work will be like. There are also fewer distractions in the early morning, which allows walkers to relax and enjoy their workout time.
Walking in the early afternoon may give walkers the best muscle tone and endurance for their efforts. Walking during bright, sunlight hours helps walkers absorb necessary vitamins, which may indirectly help their fitness goals.
Like early morning walks, these dark, peaceful hours create a relaxing environment for walkers. Walking after work also functions as stress relief, which may help prevent other stress relief activities, such as overeating and sitting too long on the couch.
It’s a sad fact of life that our daily schedules are often the biggest obstacles between us and a healthy lifestyle. Long hours at work and school take their toll mentally and physically. At the end of the day, many people feel like they don’t have the energy for a walk. On the other hand, getting up early may cut into precious sleep time, which will only sabotage fitness efforts in the long term. It’s a tricky balance. Sometimes, the best time of day to walk is simply the only time of day you have available.
Using Days Off
There is no regular workweek for the majority of employees these days, and very few work nine to five, Monday through Friday. Still, all employees have time off at least once or twice a week. It may be tempting to just sleep in, do a few dishes, and call it a day, but days off are perfect for longer walks to supplement shorter walks throughout the week. Remember, you don’t have to walk the same distance or the same time every time you put on your walking shoes. However, when an opportunity arises, you need to take it.
Lunch and Break Times
Most countries have mandatory lunch and break time requirements. These precious gaps between work hours are yours to enjoy. Rather than sitting in the back and texting, try using at least one of your regular breaks throughout the work day to take a walk. It doesn’t have to be far or fast, but try to push your pace just a little beyond what you’re used to. This will help you handle the rest of the workday with less stress, and it will move you closer to your fitness goals.
Don’t Go Straight Home
No matter what time of day you work, a simple trick to ensure you walk regularly is to get in the habit of stopping at a favorite park, trail, or your local fitness center on the way home from work. These regular detours will quickly become habit, and if you keep a spare set of workout clothes in your trunk, you’ll always be ready.
Other Things to Consider
An evening stroll in the summer is nothing like an evening stroll in the winter, especially if you live in the north. This is true of early morning walks, too, when the air can be cold enough to freeze boiling water. Even getting to the car to travel to your favorite gym can be deadly after a severe snowstorm. Schedule your walks with respect for nature during harsher seasons.
If you are an outdoor walker, you will always be subject to nature’s whims. This ties into seasonal changes, of course, but any day of any season can have inclement weather. To ensure your walking habit doesn’t wash away with the rain, be sure to have back up times or locations for your regular walk.
Hazards like increased traffic during local rush hours can make walking along streets dangerous. If your area does not have sidewalks, then it’s best to schedule your walk around these times. Some areas have additional hazards, such as local wildlife. Those walking in southern areas of the United States, such as Florida, may enjoy local parks and trails during the day, but evening and early morning see a rise in alligator activity. The same is true for regions with other large predators like bears, cougars, or even coyotes. Not all risks have sharp teeth, though. Believe it or not, cows may be the most dangerous animals you’ll meet on your walk. Walkers in rural regions must be particularly conscious of these threats.
Schedules, weather, and regional dangers determine a walker’s habits more than any potential benefits. That is, however, for the best. It’s better to avoid heat stroke by walking in the early morning or late afternoon during the summer, even if it means you don’t get quite as much of an endurance boost. It’s best to schedule your time around dangers in your area, whether those dangers come from cars or cows. Fortunately, different times of day provide different benefits. You may see better muscle tone, or you may develop stronger habits. No matter when you walk, you’re bound to see and feel the improvement.