Bitesize Health Hack #5

You are invited to…

Walk it Out

Imagine if walking outside for 10 minutes a day could help you reduce stress2, depression5 and anxiety2, increase energy14 and immunity15, lower risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease12, diabetes13 and some cancers10, substantially boost creativity3, lose weight6, reduce stiffness, ease lower back9 and joint pain11 and even curb chocolate cravings5. Would that be a worthwhile investment?

Well, it turns out that studies show this is exactly what happens and the benefits are multiplied if you can walk in nature.  And if you take your walk in the morning, you can knock out Hack#4 at the same time and get two for the price of one.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get those sneakers on and get out there!

Beautiful young woman walking in field with sunrise


Walk outside,

ideally in nature,

for at least 10 minutes every day.

Sad disappointed woman lying on couch and thinking about something at home, casual style indoor shoot

Overcoming The Challenges

The biggest challenge that faces those of us on the burnout end of the spectrum is overcoming that inertia to just get up and go for the dang walk.  We keep putting it off until we 'get a bit more done' or 'have a bit more energy', but the day passes by and all of a sudden it's too late.

So keep it small and schedule it into your day (without making it a big event), perhaps taking the dog around the block when you wake up, walking through a park on your way to work or incorporating a walk into meeting a friend for lunch.

Prepare ahead of time to make it as easy as possible, setting the alarm 10 minutes earlier and putting your walking shoes, shorts and socks out the night before, even your raincoat so the weather doesn't deter you!

If joint or other pain is making it impossible to even go for a short walk, then your most important first step is to start addressing that.  Chronic pain is hugely debilitating and inflammatory, which will make it incredibly hard to make other healthy changes in your life. Talk with your GP and make an appointment with a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to help get you moving again.

To get even more out of your walk, get as close to nature as possible [17,18].  That might be a local park, a nearby reserve or forest, a path along the beachfront or even the leafiest street in your neighbourhood.  You don’t have to trek into the wilderness, although that of course would be even better!.

Even if you live in an urban area, you can still gain some of the incredible benefits of being in nature [17,18] by tapping into a hyper awareness of your surroundings.  As you walk, notice everything from the smallest objects to the sheer immensity of buildings around you.

As Thich Nhat Hahn says, "Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet", which is a wonderful way to invite a sense of wonderment into your space.

Beautiful young african woman wearing coat walking outdoors

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My take on the


(if you’re all about “But why…?”)


There are plenty of references in the links below to support the physical benefits of walking and you probably don’t need studies for most of those benefits, so what I’d really like to chat about here is a “why” you’re probably wondering about already.  How can 10 minutes of walking produces all these benefits - surely 20-30 minutes of high intensity exercise would be better?  And sure, if we’re talking about just the exercise effects of walking, then some of those (such as burning calories) could definitely be enhanced with more volume and intensity exercise.

But high intensity, high volume exercise isn’t always the most beneficial, particularly if you’re extremely fatigued, overweight and generally just burnt out.  Regular exercise lowers inflammation in the longer term, but also causes acute inflammation straight after exercising, which can lead to chronic inflammation over time16, definitely not something you want if you’re already burnt out.  I’m not for a minute saying that doing more exercise isn’t a good thing, but if you're burnt out and fatigued, then reducing stress and inflammation on the body is your priority, not burning calories.  I’m just suggesting that a short daily walk is a bitesize, sustainable and hugely beneficial starting point.

But there’s an even more important reason that walking outdoors is so beneficial.  We’ve all felt that sense of wonder when hiking in nature - it feels like you have come alive, your thoughts are going large, your fears are dissipating and there is a sense that this is what life is really about (ok, maybe not when you’re slogging and sweating your way up yet another hill, but for sure when you stop to soak up a stunning view and wonder why you don’t do this more often).  That is the power of Presence… brought to you by the magic of being in nature.  And it is this ‘magic’ that enhances all the benefits of your short walk multifold17,18, even if you’re strolling in a local park (but less so if you’re rushing to an appointment).

This is such a great hack, because you can actually use it to get some of your other bitesize hacks done at the same time!

So, if finding time in your day is your toughest challenge, you can do the following while you stroll along:

#1 Breathe slowly and deeply into your belly

#2 Sip on your water bottle as you walk

#3 Try a walking meditation where you get super mindful about each step you take and the wonder of the world around you.

#4 And get some sunshine by taking your walk in the morning.

That said, I wouldn't squash them all in this way every day - some days it's good to be able to focus just on your breathing or your guided meditation and some days you might want to walk along briskly to get the heart rate up without having to worry about other things.

But it’s not hard to see why 10 minutes of walking in nature is one of our essential hacks.  Not only is it the easiest and most sustainable way to get yourself up and moving, but you can pack in some of the other hacks at the same time on busy days.

And getting yours hacks done consistently is going to feel rewarding, which creates another whole cascade of hormones in your body that create a sense of fulfilment - a vital and often overlooked key requirement for making habit change.

This short walk you're going to take each day is SO much more than just getting a bit of exercise.


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  1. Harvard Health outlines some lesser known benefits of walking
  2. Article from the Anxiety and Depression Society of America discussing the benefits of even a short walk on stress and anxiety, as well as some handy tips for walking regularly
  3. A study from Stanford University, which found that walking can substantially boost creativity.
  4. Review of studies around exercise and sleep by the National Sleep Foundation
  5. Actual real-live evidence that walking for 15 minutes a day can curb chocolate cravings!
  6. Study showing that walking can reduce the expression of obesity promoting genes
  7. Study showing increased blood flow to the brain from walking
  8. Study linking walking and other physical activity with lower levels of depression and higher quality of life
  9. Study linking walking to improved lower back pain
  10. Study linking walking to lower risk of breast cancer
  11. Study looking at the effect of walking on arthritis and joint pain in the knee
  12. Review of studies looking at the effect of walking on cardiovascular risk
  13. Study showing the immediate effect of a short walk after a meal in reducing glucose spikes
  14. Study showing stair-walking gives a bigger energy boost than caffeine when you’re tired
  15. Study looking at the impact of activity on the immune system
  16. An article from Dr Mark Sissons discussing the complex relationship between exercise and inflammation
  17. A great article by Business Insider (OK, not one of my usual sources, but it is well referenced and saved me reinventing the wheel in my already too long article)
  18. An article from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies about how nature benefits your health