We all know the value of getting our steps in, but there’s even more to it than being fit. In addition to lowering healthcare costs, walking — including, walking your errands and walking to work — translates to a healthier planet by reducing emissions and waste. If getting your steps in isn’t motivating enough, read on for more inspiration to walk your errands.
IT REDUCES CO2 EMISSIONS
In 2008, a study found that if just 5% of New Yorkers swapped cars for bikes or sneakers, there would be a 150 million pound savings in CO2 emissions over the course of a year. In San Francisco, a similar study estimated that if people increased their daily walking or biking from 4 minutes per day to 22 minutes per day, emissions would be reduced by 14%. Other studies show similar results: Walking instead of driving is arguably the easiest, cheapest way to be eco-friendly.
Pro tip: If your work commute is too long to walk — not uncommon for those of us who don’t live in cities — consider a split commute. Drive to work, but park a mile or two away from the office and walk from there. You’re still getting the benefits of walking, and your car is on the road for fewer miles per year. Even walking two miles per day instead of driving saves around 600 miles of driving per year, which is around two full tanks of gas, plus roughly 13.7 pounds worth of calories burned. Not too shabby!
IT SAVES MONEY
The American Public Transportation Association’s March 2016 Transit Savings Report showed that those who opted for public transit instead of driving saved up to $769 per month. If you opt to walk to the bus stop or subway or walk the entire way to your destination, the savings can go even higher. Of course, you can take a similar tactic as above and do a combo of walking a few extra bus stops then taking the bus the rest of the way.
Pro tip: Use some of the money you save on gas to invest in sneakers that make walking as comfortable as possible. If you live in an area where rain or snow are common, treat yourself to good outerwear to make your commute more pleasant.
IT REDUCES HEALTHCARE COSTS
Studies in major cities including Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco have found that walking and cycling for just a few minutes per day significantly drops the rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease — up to 14%. That’s a huge potential decrease in health care costs for you and for the city. In Australia, it was estimated that the net direct healthcare cost savings were AU$126.73 million in 2004 for just the people who were already walking — imagine the savings if all of the inactive population started moving.
Pro tip: Once you start a regular walking habit, take a minute at the end of each week to reflect on how you feel. If you’re feeling stronger, more energized and more focused at work, note that in a journal as a reminder for when you’re tempted to start driving more again.
IT REDUCES WASTE
When you walk to the market for groceries, not only are you burning calories while reducing emissions, but it’s likely that since you have to carry what you buy, you’ll only get what you need. One study showed that up to 40% of the food we purchase in the U.S. gets tossed. When you’re carrying groceries on your back, you quickly learn to stop buying products with tons of packaging, which is usually more processed, and focus on getting only what you need and are willing to carry.
Pro tip: Find a backpack that’s comfortable — and has a chest strap and waist-strap to help distribute the weight of heavier stuff. You can always ease in and drive once a month to stock up on staples and heavier items.
IT INCREASES YOUR CALORIC BURN
You probably work out a few times a week and burn some serious calories already, so this extra movement is a bonus. Adding walking errands won’t just help the environment, it can give you an extra low-impact workout that can push you over that weight-loss plateau or help you increase your aerobic base. If you’re a runner, there’s only so much mileage you have time or energy for in a week, but walking at 4 mph won’t feel like much work, despite the fact that it can burn upwards of 400 calories per hour — and even more if you add a pack and walk with groceries or library books. One British study showed that adults who walked or cycled to work had a lower body-fat percentage compared to those who commuted by car.
Pro tip: Wear a fitness tracker for at least a week of focused walk commuting, and at the end of the week, note how many extra steps you took — and how many extra calories you burned. The number will happily surprise you!