As temperatures began rising, the days became longer, and spring peeked around the corner in early March, I decided I wanted to make a lifestyle change. The past three and a half months of my first Montreal winter were really starting to get to me. Add in strict Red Zone COVID-19 measures, and I was starting to go stir crazy! So, at the turn of the month between February and March, I made a new goal for myself: I would try to walk ten thousand steps a day for the month of March. As someone who had essentially spent the whole winter in hibernation mode, I knew this would be a challenge. However, I found myself determined to follow through!
Ever since I was a child, my mom instilled the importance and benefits of walking in me. Feeling bored? Tired? Sick? Restless? “Go for a walk” was always her go-to answer. When I was younger, this response often resulted in an eyeroll. Yet, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of walking that my mom so passionately ingrained in my mind, especially during the pandemic. As much as my inner stubbornness doesn’t want me to admit this out loud to my mom, I’ve found that going for a walk really can present a much-needed solution for many of the minor problems and inconveniences we experience in everyday life.
I began my walking journey on March 1st of this year, and, as of April 17th, I’ve met my ten thousand step goal every single day. It definitely hasn’t always been easy…especially on cold and rainy days, in which I’d rather stay indoors and watch something cozy on my laptop. Overall, however, it has been a tremendously positive experience for me. Here are five of my key takeaways and lessons learnt from walking ten thousand steps every day for over a month:
- I have explored parts of the city I’ve never seen before.
When I first decided to do this, one of my biggest motivators was my desire to explore more of Montreal. During my first six months as a McGill student, I found myself almost entirely confined to campus and the Milton-Parc neighborhood, with the occasional trip down to Old Port or the Plateau. I really wanted to venture to new parts of the city and push myself to break out of the so-called “McGill Bubble” – at least, as much as I could within walking distance. I first began taking walks deep into the Plateau, venturing past Parc La Fontaine, and discovering more residential neighborhoods. Then, I explored the Mile End and Outremont neighborhoods north and to the west of Mont Royal. I spent more time in Old Port than I ever had in the past, and I even had a chance to explore the Gay Village.
Now, I may be getting ahead of myself, but as someone who usually has an absolutely terrible sense of direction and almost always relies on Google Maps, I have to say that I think I have a pretty good feel for all these neighborhoods by now, which is quite an accomplishment for me!
Most importantly, I now have a much better understanding of different parts of Montreal I never considered exploring before.
- I got to meet new people and find new cafes
As a result of my exploration of various neighborhoods in Montreal, I was able to encounter so many interesting new businesses and people. Whether it was a plant nursery, cafe, or clothing store, I have made so many new discoveries while going on walks. Additionally, I loved encountering new people, especially as the weather got warmer at the end of March. From seeing families playing in the park and groups of elementary students walking home from school every day, to elderly couples sharing a coffee, going out for a daily walk gave me the social interaction and serotonin boost I was desperately in need of. There’s something so calming to me about observing others enjoying the little moments in life.
- I got my friends to come along with me
Although I love going on long walks alone, the days when a friend or two could join me were always a highlight. I find that sharing a moment of exploration and discovery with other people can be incredibly rewarding and memorable. From finding a street with gorgeous buildings, to exploring a quaint park or a new cafe, sharing these moments outside with others is something I didn’t know I needed until I started experiencing it.
As the pandemic persists, spending time outdoors with a small bubble of friends is one of the best ways to persevere through these isolating times. Having my friends join me for a daily walk (even a short one, as they don’t always have the time to get in ten thousand steps) has resulted in some of my most cherished memories from this year.
- I saw improvement in my energy, alertness and mood.
My other biggest motivator for going on walks this past month was to improve my mental and physical health. Winter was rough this year, and as someone who has always loved getting outside and exploring new places, I found myself increasingly stuck inside both my room and my head. I wanted to force myself to get out at least once a day, and I let my mind go blank for a bit. Walking has certainly helped me do this and more. Although going for walks can take up a surprising amount of energy and time, I have found that I feel much more energized throughout my days after taking in my steps outside. My mood and alertness levels have also improved greatly.
I could go on and on about the ways in which my mental and physical health has improved after this month. I think the biggest improvement, however, was in my sleep schedule (which I hadn’t even considered before setting this goal.) I have always been a night owl, often spending up to an hour lying in the dark and waiting to fall asleep each night. Throughout this past month, these walks have helped me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, which has been nice, especially considering I am quite the restless sleeper.
- Walking has become my new favorite part of the day.
Overall, I decided to make this lifestyle change for me. I know ten thousand steps is a lot, and I certainly don’t think everyone needs to walk that much. However, I do think going for a walk at least once a day (or, at least in the months with nicer weather) is beneficial, even if it’s just for five minutes. While I set this goal just for the month of March, I have kept with it through April. My daily walks are now part of my habitual routine, and they almost feel like second nature.
From getting to know Montreal neighborhoods better, to discovering new shops and cafes, to spending time with friends, to even improvements in my overall mood, my daily walks are honestly now my favourite part of the day.