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Street Walking for a Healthier Life

After months of walking many times on most streets within an hour of my front door, I wanted some different scenery.

08-16 Victorian 49
Photo © Jeanne Farrington

I started driving a little way to enjoy the architecture and gardens of houses in a quaint older neighborhood. One area had such lovely homes and yards that I systematically walked every street, keeping track on my iPhone map so that I wouldn’t miss anything. It took a couple of days, walking about 2 miles each time. I enjoyed completing this little goal.

So, I found myself thinking about walking on every street in my section of town.

Enter Google Maps. I looked up the boundaries of my neighborhood, an area roughly 3 miles by 3 miles, with many, many streets. I printed paper maps, adjusting the size so that I had logical sections surrounded by bigger streets. I also made sure to zoom in enough so that the street names were visible.

Walking with Maps. The sizing worked out so that most of the printed maps have two to five logical sections, and each of those takes two to five or more outings to walk. I fold the maps like a letter & take a pen along. As I finish a street, or a few streets, I mark them off on the map.

What Happened to My Walks. Now I have a purpose beyond exercise: walk this next section. I often stay out longer and walk farther because I want to mark off the next few blocks. Because of this I tripled the average length of my walks.

Why Do This?

  1. Accomplishing goals feels good, even if you make them up just for yourself. As I drive through my neighborhood, and now through an ever-expanding set of adjoining areas, I think, “I walked all these streets.” It’s a satisfying feeling.
  2. I exercise more often than before, because I want to finish that next section or the next map.
  3. Now, instead of thinking of it as a chore, I look forward to walking.
  4. I enjoy the architecture and the landscaping.
  5. It’s fun to share the photos I take along the way.
  6. There’s a feeling of putting down deeper roots after walking all the streets in a particular area. If I were to move, I’d make maps and start walking the nearby streets as soon as possible to make that new place feel more like “mine.”
  7. With Charity Miles, I can contribute a little to others while I’m doing something good for me.

Street Walking (Running, Biking) Tips

    1. Pick an area you like. Print maps. If you have to drive to get there, then keep the next map or two and a pen in your car.

08-16 WG Map
Photo © Jeanne Farrington

  1. Mark off the streets you walk on the map. Walk all the streets. Exceptions:
    1. Private streets. It makes sense to skip big driveways into housing complexes or industrial parks. Write “Private” on the map, so you won’t think you missed real streets.
    2. Unsafe traffic. If there’s part of a street that isn’t safe, such as one having no sidewalks leading up to a freeway entrance, don’t walk there. Just make a note.
    3. Unsafe areas. Unsavory people? Scary area? Mark those areas as “Unsafe.” Don’t walk there.
  2. Sometimes, to finish an area, you’ll have to walk some streets twice. That’s okay! That’s just more walking, which is, after all, the point.
  3. If you’re not very good at reading maps, you’ll get better with practice.
  4. Stay safe. Choose safe neighborhoods.
    1. Not sure? Check out the area first with Google Maps satellite view and/or drive through it first to see what you think.
    2. Stay out of deserted areas.
    3. Take your phone and a whistle.
    4. Take someone with you or choose another area if you have doubts.
    5. Don’t walk alone in the dark.

Enjoy the scenery. Exercise for free. Feel more connected to the place you live. Smile at neighbors you’ve never met. See some great gardens and lovely architecture.

Street walking is a great way to enjoy your walks (or runs, or rides). If you want to get more exercise, this is a motivating way to do it. Plus, your friends will have fun teasing you about being a “street walker.” Just smile and nod as you increase your endurance and stay in better shape.


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