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The One Thing That Made It Easy To Stay Healthy

Fitness can be complicated. The fancy clothes, the special equipment, the wearable technology that dutifully calculates your steps and heartbeat 24/7 – it’s all a bit intimidating, let alone expensive.

Which isn’t to say sports that require technical gear can’t be loads of fun. I remain proud as heck that I’ve completed two triathlons, and managing the necessary wardrobe and accouterment is often considered the fourth event of the otherwise tripartite race.

Skiing, kayaking, rock climbing – there are so many ways to break a sweat and build strength and enjoy the incredible gift of having a functioning body. (Given how many times in my life I’ve been sidelined by recurring back pain, I don’t take that gift for granted.)

But fitness does not have to be complicated.

I am presently healthier than I’ve ever been in my life – healthier than when I was logging elliptical sessions at my college gym, healthier than when I was training for a half-marathon, healthier even than when I chiseled two minutes off my swim time in my second tri.

I attribute my newfound fitness to eating more healthfully, practicing yoga regularly, and – wait for it – walking.

Last March we adopted Betsy, a Labrador mix with a penchant for hyperactivity. I started taking her on longer and longer walks to burn off some of her boundless energy.

We worked our way up to brisk four mile jaunts through the streets of our town, often returning just as the rest of the family was waking up. I quickly came to cherish the time.

I learned my neighborhood in a far more intimate way than is possible from behind a steering wheel. I started checking out audiobooks from our public library and, as our constitutionals lengthened, left my annual reading goal in the dust. I burned enough calories to drop a dress size.

Walking is not universally accessible, obviously. Some legs do not bear weight; some neighborhoods are not safe for strolling.

Though I’ve enjoyed witnessing the subtle changing of the seasons, for the last couple of weeks it has been bitterly cold in my neck of the woods. Turns out both Betsy and I call it quits when the thermometer drops too close to zero.

But walking is one of the more accessible forms of physical exercise one can take up. It is free and freeing, gentle yet remarkably effective.

It can be urban exploration or wilderness wandering, peacefully solitary or a wonderful way to connect with friends. Childcare issues cramping your exercise regimen? Toss that baby in the jogging stroller and you’re good to go.

The bottom line is this: If you are diligent enough to take a decent walk daily, you may well find yourself fit as a fiddle.

It’s that simple.

(More or less. It helps to cut the sugar and eat your veggies, too, but that goes without saying, right?)

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Seana Turner

    I love walking for all the reasons you mentioned, but I am a wimp when it comes to the cold weather. Walking ends up being a spring/summer/fall thing for me. It is amazing how mentally renewing the walk can be, though. It ends up being as good or better than the physical benefit!

    • Katherine Willis Pershey

      The mental renewal really is invaluable! I surprised myself this morning – took Betsy two blocks but then went on to walk another two miles by myself. It was 8 degrees. 🙂

  2. Richard Bakare

    I swear by waking also. I am an endurance athlete that gets asked all the time, “how do I get fit?” When I give the response to start with just walking, people are floored. There is a mental benefit to walking consistently that I can’t completely qualify yet. Thanks for writing this.

  3. Abbie

    Yes! Thanks for sharing your story in an inspiring way.

  4. Guest

    This made me smile. I am a walker. Yep, I said it. I have been a walker for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the country, our little dog and I went on daily (sometimes multiple times a day) walks. No leashes. Just exploring.

    In college I found therapy walking the track my freshman year and later, exploring local parks and trails. Walking has been a constant for me and though I’ll never have rock hard abs or cut arms from it, it’s kept me moving and mostly sane.

    • Katherine Willis Pershey

      There is totally something to be said for moving and mostly sane. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  5. Anne

    This was great! Always love reading from Katherine! Would love to hear more from her on the podcast about faith.

  6. Christine Bailey

    Wholeheartedly agree! Great post. I started aerobic walking in college and lost 10 lbs without changing anything else. Walking has been a huge part of my life since then. I birthed two children and walked countless hours around the neighborhood with them in the Moby wrap bouncing on my chest, in a backpack, or the Bob stroller. We’ve since moved to the country and the BIGGEST thing I miss about the city is not having sidewalks. Our walks look different now – on grass with very few other houses in view, and I miss looking at all the houses and yards as I’d walk by. But these walks have another kind of beauty. I think it’s about continuing to work it in, no matter where you live.

    • Katherine Willis Pershey

      I always think to myself that I should put the dog in the car and drive over to the Forest Preserve, or head to downtown Chicago to the lakefront paths. But there’s something sort of lovely about the immediate vicinity of your house determining your path – whether urban, suburban, or rural.

  7. Fiona

    We also recently got a dog, a golden retriever currently 8mths, and while walks can sometimes be frustrating (!) with too many “pauses” and distractions I’ve really enjoyed being “forced to get out and walk in the mornings and at night with my husband. My legs AND my arms are stronger 😉 and I haven’t put on so much weight as I normally do in the post-Christmas munching period 😉

    • Katherine Willis Pershey

      Goldens are such lovely dogs – congratulations! She’ll get to be a less-distractible walker as she grows, I bet.

  8. Alicen

    I’ve recently started walking more frequently on my lunch break. Some days it would be easier to not go, but I’m making it a priority until it becomes a habit. We’re in the middle of winter here too, with temperatures in the 5-10 F range.

  9. Katherine Willis Pershey

    I think the key is making it a habit. Even though I only took a couple of weeks off during the extreme cold, it was amazing how much inertia I had to overcome to get back out there again.

  10. Katie

    Going on walks a few times a week has been a wonderful habit for my marriage! It’s much easier to work in than a date night and it makes us both feel happy and healthy. The sidewalks throughout our neighborhood are part of why we bought this house.

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