Just Walk

When I first got my Garmin watch in 2021, I wore it for a week, with no change in my habits or routine — to get a baseline of where I was at. During that first week, I averaged 422 steps a day. I didn’t just get my step count; I was able to see my heart rate, my sleep cycle, and even my stress levels. Having the watch on its own was motivating enough to get me moving more — and so I did.

Over time, I made some changes to get the most out of my watch. I would go to the gym and walk on a treadmill, or I would plan a trip to go to a state park or at UNF to walk the trails. I would walk in circles around my house or would spend more time walking through my garden. As expected, my step count increased, my heart rate decreased, and my sleep cycle leveled out. But then I looked at my stress levels with an insignificant change.

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Inquisitive minds began to wonder. I investigated further. Fortunately for me, I keep track of almost everything through my planner, and there it was — clear as day. My lowest stress numbers were recorded on days when I went walking outside for any duration of time. I think it’s safe to say we are all stressed for one reason or another. I am no exception.

I also wondered what would happen if I walked every day for 30 days. What would my numbers show? Would I finally be stress-free? Only time (and a lot of steps) would tell. It seems so simple, and we understand the science of why it is so important to walk. So, why don’t we do it more often? Well, I could provide the data and statistics for you, but the simplest answer is time and convenience.

I wanted to ensure that I addressed the “time and convenience” portion of why we don’t get our steps in. This was important for me because those are the two reasons I used as an excuse, many times over. To help me achieve my goal, I wanted to set a time that I would walk every day. For me, it was after I dropped my son off at school.

For the record, I am 100% that mom who looks like she just rolled out of bed — yoga pants and an oversized sweater — every morning. I do this so that I don’t come home and get distracted. I have no excuse but to park my car in the driveway, grab my beats, start my watch, and head out. It still takes time to prepare, albeit mostly mental preparation, but it takes the stress out of planning “when” to walk. It is also important to mention that I work from home, and I am the CEO of my small nonprofit. Because of this, I am able to limit my meetings to beginning at 9 a.m. or take the call on the go.

My walks, initially, started around my neighborhood. I would walk 1.87 miles from my house to the furthest cul-de-sac and back. I would increase my distance over time by adding another cul-de-sac to my trip. Then I would go further and branch out to another nearby neighborhood. In my neighborhood (with only one cul-de-sac trip) I would average about 4,654 steps (I have little legs). My heart rate would rise and fall with my pace, as expected. As I walked more and more over time, my stress levels continued to lower. However, it is important to mention things I noticed that weren’t necessarily quantifiable.

After walking for a week, the first thing I noticed was the physical changes. My muscles began to adjust to this new routine. My feet weren’t hurting as much, and I wasn’t out of breath before reaching the cul-de-sac.

By week two, I was able to hold a conversation during a Zoom meeting with a local hospital. I also finished a few podcasts I’d been trying to listen to for a while. I waved at my neighbors as they passed by, and I gave more puppies some love (because all puppies need love). I developed a new pet peeve (people walking IN THE CENTER OF THE ROAD DURING MORNING RUSH when there is a perfectly good sidewalk to use), and I found inspiration for what to do to my yard before it gets too hot.

In week three, I would add some occasional light jogging to my walks. This would not be a consistent thing, but rather an opportunity to push myself. Some days were still solely dedicated to walking. On these days, I would bring the current book I am reading. I would dance along the sidewalk at times instead of walking, especially when the song was THE song I needed at the time.

By the end of the month, there was no more preparation needed. There was no more “setting aside time.” I was looking forward to my walks. I felt out of place or off when I was even remotely delayed. I didn’t need headphones, although I certainly enjoyed them. I was finally feeling like a lighthouse — light breaking through the dense mental fog that was hovering around me.

Research suggests we should take anywhere between 7,000 and 10,000 steps per day. However, the Mayo Clinic says the average American takes anywhere between 3,000 and 4,000 steps, or about 1.5 miles a day. Many of those steps are taken to and from the kitchen, walking into the house from your driveway, or up and down the stairs.

I started walking for the health benefits, but I like to think I found something so much more. I became more present. I had my talks with God, and most of it was me asking why I thought this was a good idea. I became more in tune with my breathing. I stood at the gates during the Siege of Leningrad as I read The Winter Garden. I laughed with Brené Brown during her podcast. I danced (horribly, sorry to my neighbors) as I made my way down the sidewalk. I made so many mental lists and game plans. I even found myself wondering why I hadn’t started doing this earlier.

Soon it became a family affair. Morning walks were for me, my time. Evening walks became bike rides and running to keep up. We walk to our friends’ homes in the neighborhood instead of hopping in the truck. We walk the Vilano Bridge on Sunday mornings (if you see us, honk!). The change of pace really does remind you to stop and smell the roses, the freshly mowed grass, or the salt air rolling off the waves.

Walk. Not just to lose weight. Not to just say you’re walking. Walk to slow down. Walk to listen to the birds. Walk to say hi to a neighbor. Walk to learn something new. Walk to see something familiar. Whatever you do… just walk. The rest will follow.

Brittany Hutto
Brittany Hutto was born and raised in a small (but fast-growing) town in Florida. She married her high school sweetheart and is the mother to the most kindhearted and adventurous little boy named Mark. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of North Florida where she majored in Public Health and Health Education. She served her community during her time working with underserved populations. After a complex pregnancy, she and her husband welcomed Mark to the world at 27 weeks and 4 days. She stepped away from her career to become a stay-at-home mom so that she could take her son to his many specialist appointments, therapies, and surgeries. She works tirelessly to ensure her son is happy, thriving, and meeting every milestone. Brittany enjoys many activities with her family. In her free time, you may find her reading a good book, spending time with her family out on the boat, DIY projects, and giving back to the local NICU. She currently manages her own blog which invites you to come along on her and her son’s journey from complex pregnancy, to the NICU, and every diagnosis and surgery in between. Brittany also manages a program called Mark’s Mission which gives back to local NICUs. She is an advocate for NICU support and research and is a current student pursuing her Master of Public Administration with concentrations in Nonprofit Management and Health Care Administration at the University of North Florida. Her dream is to establish Make Your Mark as a non-profit organization to give back to more local NICUs and serve as a resource for local parents with children who have superpowers.


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