Why city-dwellers do have time to exercise

Read time: 7 mins

Vigorously hurried days are commonplace in the city, and getting in a workout is often the last thing on our extensive to-do lists. But what if exercise wasn’t a line-item to check-off? What if exercise was the means of checking everything else off? Now, before you run away, (after all, that would also be exercise), let me assure you I don’t mean mini-workouts. This is not a guide for “15 Minutes to a Toned Abs.” Phew! Walk away from the spandex, and put on your favorite lived-in shoes.

I hate going to the gym. There, I said it. When did exercise and the gym become the same thing, anyway? I consider myself an active person because I love to walk everyday…home from work, to the grocery store, to the beach, to the park, to the bus stop to visit family, to restaurants, to the farmers market…everywhere. I even use words like ‘hiking’ to disguise the fact that I am walking (and maybe sweating) in my free-time. Being able to walk to all my essential daily destinations (work, grocery stores, etc) is one of the best things about living in a densely populated, cultural center. And guess what? Walking is a legitimate form of exercise! Incorporating movement into our daily routine is key to keeping us fit even when we are short on time.

With all the benefits of walking what able-bodied person does not have time to do it?

As a citizen of the world, I feel obligated to tell you that walking is linked to many aspects of healthy living, including your lowering risk of disease, decreasing stress, and strengthening the body (Eco Guide). Discover more health benefits here.

And, of course, walking is also good for our steadily warming planet. On average a car emits 411 grams of CO2 per mile driven; that’s almost 1 pound of CO2 per mile (United States Environmental Protection Agency). Walking instead of driving 1 mile each day for a year can lower your carbon footprint by nearly 365 lbs. Everyday you could go somewhere different…to the market, to work, to get the morning cup of espresso.

To put that in a broader context, 14% of CO2 emissions world wide are associated with transportation (IPCC & United States Environmental Protection Agency). That is a large portion of emissions that you can actually have an impact on. Whereas, it is more difficult (particularly in a city) to have a direct impact some of the other big contributors, such as industry (21%) and agriculture (24%) (IPCC & United States Environmental Protection Agency).

If you want to brainstorm more ways to help reduce your carbon footprint as associated with driving, I highly encourage you to check out our “Drive Less!” category here.

Yet, I can hear some of you sighing through cyber-space. Maybe you already know the incredible benefits of driving less. Still, it’s hard to leave behind the familiar car seat with your radio pre-programed, and finding the motivation to walk after a long day’s work can feel daunting. I get it. You need a more encouragement than just some facts and figures. So let me share bit of my own story.

I used to get frustrated with feeling mentally and physically stagnant. It didn’t make sense to me. I filled up my schedule, as I still do, with work, creative projects, and spending time with the people I care about. These were not and are not poor life choices. Neither is snuggling up on a couch to watch a movie or read a good book, as I also have been known to do. But exercise? Who has time for that? I tried to get into 30 minute routines of treadmill running or full-body yoga, but once you run out of time for that more than once, it tends slips away.

Then, I moved from a semi-rural area to a city on the other side of the state. I suddenly I was car-less. Being short on income, I decided to just walk. Everything I really needed was pretty close-by anyway.

Through simple shifts, such as chosing to volunteer to lift boxes for a coworker, taking the stairs over an elevator, and my favorite, walking to do my errands, I found movement in my life. Now, exercise is not an extra hour of my day, it is simply how I carry myself. I still throw in some peaceful yoga about once a week, but I am not dependent on any one form of exercise to stay energized. If my week is jam-packed, I can simply do a bit of subtle stretching while waiting at the cross-walk. I would have a much harder time doing that in a car.

I have even become silently impatient with being in a car in the city. When I do carpool with friends or family, I notice that it feels so slow. By the time we stop at lights, stop at stop signs, get stuck behind a truck unloading or a double-parked car, navigate crowded roadways, look for parking, pay for parking, and then walk from the car to out destination, I feel that it took longer to drive than walk the whole way--even if this is admittedly not always true. When walking, I am free to quickly maneuver around most roadblocks, and I am in a steady flow of motion that is barely noticeable but refreshing.

Of course, not all of you can avoid having a car, and walking may not be the right type of exercise for everyone, but I urge you to use this as a case study. Glean from it what you can.

Here is a quick list of the benefits I have found of not owning a car and walking everywhere instead.

  1. I have less stress. I am almost never in traffic unless carpooling or on a bus, in which case I don’t have to pay attention. I never have to look for parking. I never have to worry about my car getting stolen or broken-into.

  2. I have fewer bills. I don’t pay for insurance, car maintenance, gas, or electricity for a vehicle.

  3. I have a smaller carbon footprint. My travel triggers less pollution, especially when I walk or bike.

  4. I have less waste. Cars have a lot of toxic components (including plastic frame pieces and batteries) that will likely end up in a hazardous waste facility or landfill.

  5. I have more time to do what I enjoy. I can listen to podcasts, get updated on all the social media, watch videos, or enjoy the scenery and maybe the adventure of taking a different route. (If you try these at home, please watch for cars/bikes when crossing the street!)

  6. I am less stiff and sore. Getting the blood flowing really helps if I sat at work most of the day.

  7. I have more steps on my step-counting smartphone app. Averaging 5-7 miles a day without going to the gym, whoo!

  8. I can go at my own pace. I feel empowered when I walk because I can often set my own speed, stop and snap a picture if I want to, and feel independent, since I can take myself places.

  9. I am more motivated to buy local. Without a car, I look to shops and restaurants close by my home. Sure, there are chain stores near me, but why would I go to them when the local place has better service and better quality, more eco-friendly goods?

  10. I am stronger and more content. I feel emotionally and physically stronger when I am walking regularly. This strength gives me confidence in my own abilities, leading me to explore other possibilities.

Hopefully you find this list inspiring or encouraging. However, if walking is too slow for you, you can skip, jump, ride a bike, scooter, wheel-chair, or groove along anyway you can. As long as you are providing the power, you are exercising! Every movement helps you be healthier, stronger, and kinder to the environment. But you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.

My advice is: make it practical and enjoyable. You will be more likely to sustain the habits that bring positive simplicity into your life, rather than ones that make it more difficult.

Carry yourselves well, friends!








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