Starting a walking habit is easy to do in a few short weeks.
I’ll own up that I thought I walked enough to keep healthy, when in fact, a couple of months ago I was totting up a grand total of approximately 5000 step a day, sometimes even less I’m ashamed to say!
I bought a Fit-Bit a few months ago. My stats were NOT impressive.First, I consoled myself that it’s not a big deal I’m half way there to the recommended 10k steps daily. After continuing my sedentary life for several months and not shifting any inches or weight, I knew I had to do something different. Even the novelty of the buzz of the Fitbit on my wrist wore off, I was kidding myself. I was on a quest to find out if it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to reach such a momentous step count daily. I decided to get the facts and find the reasons as to why walking is good for you. It took me only 4 weeks to go from walking intermittently to going on my first hill walk!
How I started a daily walking habit
Find your motivation
What do you want to achieve: I had several motivations
Following a Sunnah activity.
Fit in regular exercise out with my family commitments.
Find an activity to sustain throughout my life into old age.
First, I decided that walking ticked all these boxes. However, not the type of walking you do inside, on a treadmill or in front of the TV. I choose to do it outside.
Prisoners working on the treadmills.“A Victorian Prison.
” The National Archives, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2010.
I wouldn’t totally rule out treadmill use for anyone that either lives in the (not so sunny climes of Glasgow or the likes. Like me, you could put it where you can look outside, maybe facing a window if you can. I have mine facing the garden!
So how is it a Sunnah?
Walking is mentioned in the Quran and there are numerous hadith mentioning the prophet PBUH walking around on a daily basis and running with Hazrat Aisha (r.a)
Hazrat Abu Hurairah (r.a) says, “I did not see anyone more handsome as Rasoolullah (PBUH). It was as if the brightness of the sun had shone from his auspicious face. I did not see anyone walk faster than him as if the earth folded for him. A few moments ago he would be here, and then there. We found it difficult to keep pace when we walked with him, and he walked at his normal pace.”
Being physically active has a lot of benefits including worshiping effectively and interacting socially. The image of sitting in front of the fire and not being mobile, suddenly makes going for a walk in the park a lot more appealing! This was a major reason to start the walking habit. If you want to be able to be active and fit and to do your prayers in the best of manners, into old age, this is the way to ensure it,inshaAllah.
If you are thinking, walking isn’t as intense as a gym cardio workout. Surprisingly (1) fast walking (like the Sunnah) does help you reach a training heart rate which you would get from an aerobic workout. You can reach more than 70% of your of your maximum heart rate through fast walking. So, anyone can enjoy the benefits no matter how unfit you are.
What to do: make the intention to emulate the fast walking of the prophet PBUH
2) Make it regular
I had to exercise in the mornings before anyone else in the family was awake. This was my sticking point: someone always wanted something after 8 am in the morning! I choose 7 am, five times a week.
What to do: find a time that in the foreseeable future you will have free regularly.
3) Find a walking buddy
If you need accountability like I do then this is the best option. However, if you are self-motivated and like the flexibility of your own routine then just make a personal resolve and schedule your walk in your diary.
I grabbed a friend. I knew I needed a person that was as motivated as me to make exercise a priority. Doing exercise in the early morning was going to help me to stick to it long term and give me the benefits of the early morning barakah (blessings). Surprisingly, it wasn’t as easy as I envisioned to find a buddy that had a similar time schedule and commitments. However, I found that this was key to sticking to it. Having someone to text and say are u ok for coming for the walk today, I knew someone was up and waiting for me, made me jump out of bed, especially at 6:30am! You only need to find one person though that is roughly the same fitness level as yourself. I found setting some agreed rules helps us stick to our resolve. we are flexible as when either has something come up then we reschedule on our days off to make it up
What to do: find one person that is roughly the same fitness level as yourself.
Schedule a time in your diary for self-motivated walkers.
Send a text to someone that you are going for your walk, to keep accountability.
4) Be flexible about setbacks
When you are new to doing something, inevitably you will come across hurdles you didn’t think about. Not to worry. We were over zealous and started off with a plan of walking 7 days a week. For someone that was intermittently walking 2 times a week previously, this was a big jump in activity. My legs and ankle were telling me to stop! So both of us found we struggled the first couple of weeks. We had to take a day of the subsequent week. Slight knee pain and swollen ankles meant we adjusted to 5 times a week schedule, as you need rest days to recover. Flexibility is key to developing the habit. Reschedule on your days off to mak up for any days off. A few times we rescheduled for an afternoon walk which we will do during Ramadan, inshaAllah( God willing)
What to do: Try experimenting with how many sessions you can do in a week, build it up to 5 sessions.
Reschedule on your days off to make up for any days missed.
Go at a different time in the day: we went for an afternoon walk sometimes
Work on achieving a brisk walk like the prophet PBUH
5)Find a convenient location
If you’re a bit of a tree hugger( I am!) a local park is the best choice. I feel better saying that now because the prophet PBUH was too!
Ibn Umar The Prophet (saw) used to deliver his sermons while standing beside (or leaning on) a trunk of a Date Palm tree. When he had the pulpit made, he used it (the pulpit) instead (of the Date Palm tree). The trunk (of the tree) started crying/weeping (grieving out of love for the prophet) and the Prophet approached it, rubbing his hand over it (to sooth it and stop its crying/weeping).
Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 783
The benefits of being out at that time of the morning, close to nature really highlight the beauty of Allah’s creation. Talking and walking is therapeutic. Use the time to reflect on the changes that you see around you. However, If it’s more than a couple of minutes drive way then it’s unlikely you will stick to it. Since I’ve experienced that with gyms: choose somewhere local.
Furthermore, walking has many benefits including exercise, recreation, travel, companionship, and relaxation. Green exercise: walking in heritage or green surroundings can boosts self-esteem and mood. This has been found to make it more likely that you will sustain the habit (2).
Benefits of walking
There are numerous knock-on effects from developing this habit.
I’m a morning person- Yay!!!!
I’m surpassing that elusive 10k steps every day- I get Fit-bit awards!!
I have more energy- getting more done.
My skin is great- lots of compliments, Alhamdolillah
It’s toning my legs
It’s mood boosting- I feel happier
Increased self-esteem- I’m chuffed I’ve done my first hill walk!
You just need 45 minutes to an hour out of your day for health benefits you can measure. Try taking up walking as a hobby you won’t regret it. Since It’s free, anyone can enjoy the beautiful landscapes around their local areas. You may discover you love it like I do and progress onto hill walking.
Send pictures of your walks to others to motivate them! It works every time. You could be the link between them taking up this sunnah.
A good deed done, SubhanAllah!
(1)Porcari, John, et al. “Is fast walking an adequate aerobic training stimulus for 30-to 69-year-old men and women?.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine15.2 (1987): 119-129.
(2) Barton, J., Rachel Hine, and J. Pretty. “The health benefits of walking in green spaces of high natural and heritage value.” Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences 6.4 (2009): 261-278.