Silly Little Walks

I feel like I need to add a small content warning to this post. I'll be discussing my health and especially my weight in this post. I have no judgements for other people and I am only doing what I'm doing for myself.

Pixel art animation of a blob fox with a signforbidden expression.

For a month now, I've been going on a walk every day. This is some of the most I've "exercised" in a good number of years. How did this help me?

A little silly history

I used to be fairly active. I'd cycle often, walk most places and do some mild sports, but as time marches on and bad habits develop, I stopped all that. Things were already bad for me, but as with many others, the global pandemic was a great excuse to sit at home and eat pizza. I got my hands on a used Oculus Rift, which I almost immediately upgraded to a Quest 2 because I loved it so much.

Alas, life happens and my regular VR exercise slowed down significantly, not helped by a large house move during the pandemic which through my entire schedule out of whack.

Moving during a pandemic is something I recommend, by the way.

Pixel art animation of a blob fox with a terrified expression.

In the end, I got trapped in some bad habits in 2021, got incredibly sick with Covid at the end of 2022, and again in October 2023. By the end of October, every step I took, I could feel how bad my health was.

An Eagle walking looking sad, the caption reads 'Going for a stupid daily walk, For my stupid physical and mental health'
I was quite inspired by this meme, even though I refer to them as 'silly' walks now.

It’s an incredibly distressing experience feeling your body fall apart like that. It took me most of November before I could even think straight. Once I was finally able to string two thoughts together again, I decided to do something a little outside my comfort zone. I went for a silly walk.

Silly productivity advice

I’m fairly obsessed with productivity, I consider it a hobby (so I don’t feel bad spending dozens of hours trying new systems). I often think about how people work, what works for them, and how I can apply it in my life. There is an unfortunate amount of misinformation and pseudoscience out there, and so I would readily dismiss many pieces of advice out of hand, especially as a lot of things don’t even apply to me. This goes for productivity advice, weight loss, and health advice in general. However, I was at the end of my rope, and I felt like a particularly cold winter would be the end of me. So I went for a silly walk, for my silly mental and physical health.

A screenshot of the Todoist application, showing 49,943 completed tasks, with my Karma level as Enlightened.
Todoist has been my primary task manager for years, can you tell? They sent me a T-Shirt!

I read all the time about how walks can help your mental health, they're good for you, and you just need to "get out there" and do it, and this will somehow cure your depression, fix all your health problems, and increase your bank balance.

Okay, well it's at least supposed to help a little.

The side of a british house, the street sign reads 'Bleak Street'
An accurate summation of my feelings going into this.
I figured that it can't hurt, and the worst case scenario is that it doesn't work, and I stay feeling crap, but with an added sense of smug satisfaction that it won't be that easy.

Silly little walks

So I decided to start my silly little walks, and I'd use my Apple Watch to track them. After the first day, I realised just how close I was to "closing my rings", and so I did a little extra that day to close them.

Pixel art animation of a blob fox with a sweating expression.

I promise, I’ll get to the results at the end, but in this case the interesting part really is the journey.

I failed to close my rings the next day, although I did still get my walk in. This was set to:

  • 700kcal on the Move Ring
  • 30 Minutes on the Exercise Ring
  • 10 hours on the stand ring. I wear a separate apple watch (my old SE model) to bed for sleep tracking, so I have almost 24/hr tracking of my stats. I have them set so that my sleep watch is on my left hand, and my daily Series 8 on my right (I wear my watches opposite to most by default). I've hit these goals every day for a month now.
The apple Fitness application, showing closed rings every day from November 27th to December 26th, with the exception of Novemer 28th, which has an incomplete Exercise ring.
It wasn't an immediately perfect start, but I'm really happy to see all these filled circles!

My walks have typically consisted of just going up and down the streets around my house, usually 15-20 minutes. Sometimes I'll visit family, or go to the local store. The most important thing in my mind is that I have physically stepped outside. Meeting my other goals is a separate event in my mind. My bare minimum would be to leave out of the front door, hang around at the end of the front yard for 30 seconds and come back in, this specific goal is all about being outside.

I will write a post one day going into more detail of how I use devices in my daily life. I have some potentially eclectic habits!

Pixel art animation of a blob fox with a happy expression.

Of course, I have also aimed to keep healthy in my exercise, ensure my mind is working, but I've not put any additional energy into improving my diet or sleep pattern beyond what I already have been doing these past 6 months. It's hard to have a control in a sample size of 1, so this experiment is purely unscientific in nature.

The results (that may also be silly)

So, a month in, how do I feel?

Well, my depression isn't fixed, my health problems persist, and the less said about my bank balance the better.

However. I have noticed changes. I can definitely walk further without getting as tired. My heart rate during walks has lowered, my general mental health has improved (and it always worsens over the holidays), and my ability to just get up and do things is vastly better. I had gotten very used to staying at home during the pandemic, and this has absolutely helped with that. Additionally, and I've buried the lede a little here, I have chronic knee pain, advanced Chondromalacia that has now likely progressed to Osteoarthritis. In the past month of silly walks, I've needed painkillers maybe once for knee pain at the start. Since then, it still hurts, but nowhere near as bad as before!

A very desaturated image of an english back street, an electricity pylon dominates a grey sky.
The views on my walks aren't the most aesthetic, but I like finding beauty in the ugliness of the streets around me.

I have not lost any weight. I may have even gained some weight, and I still cannot walk longer than 25 minutes without back pain flaring up quite badly(likely from my weight). This is okay though, because I really have noticed some changes, and that will carry me through to the next month and beyond.

I will likely do an update post in January or February when I've surpassed the 2 or 3 month mark.

Pixel art animation of a blob fox with a thumbsup expression.

As an aside, I decided to take this time to work on a bunch of different habits that I wanted to do, and I've somehow succeeded in all of them. I won't go into detail, but during this time I've also

  • Brushed my teeth twice a day
  • Learned German with Memrise
  • Stretched every evening before bed
  • Daily logged all my moods and meals (which I've been doing for a year actually) using Daylio and Nutrilio
  • Drastically cut down on the amount of ordering meals in
  • Organised my daily notes and thoughts with Obsidian (The main application I write these posts in!).

... And I started learning some other skills with Anki.

That's a lot of things! I don't know if my silly walks are the reason I've managed to stick with all of these aspects of self improvement, But I'm excited at how relatively easy it's been compared to other times I've tried to learn new skills and improve myself.

A silly little conclusion

I'm keeping this conclusion simple. There were a few questions I had going into this challenge, so let's go through those questions and their answers:

Does it work?

Yes. It doesn't solve every problem like people sometimes say, but there are fairly noticeable benefits. In my case, it took three entire weeks before I went "huh". That's a long time to stick with something new with no benefit.

An average heartrate graph from 27th November to 26th December. It is decreasing slowly from 79 to 70.
My average heartrate is slowly decreasing. It's always been a little high, so this is hopefully a clear benefit.

Was it easy?

Not for me. The first 3 days were easy because it was a novel change in my routine. Days 4-20 were hard. It was boring, it hurt, and one time had an incident with other people that really got to me. Days 21-30 were easier, but some days still hurt a lot. It's still not easy, even just getting out of the house is hard sometimes.

Was it worth it?

I think so. It's not easy, and the benefits are small. This is going to be a marathon and not a sprint, but I think at a bare minimum, it's good to know that some things really do take a long time until you notice a difference or notable improvement.

Will I keep doing it?