The Absolute Simple Brilliance of Walking, and How It Changed My Life

This guest post is by Leo Babauta, creator of Zen Habits and

I walk every day, and it is wonderful.

Walking serves as a universal solution for me, because with one simple, minimalist action, I’m able to:

  • get some fresh air and appreciate nature
  • get some exercise and get healthier
  • clear my head and rid myself of stress
  • explore the city that is my new home in ways not otherwise possible
  • spend time with my wife and kids in a healthy, fun way
  • reflect, and compose new things to write about
  • work better than ever—I walk, then stop and write on my laptop, then walk, and repeat that a number of times.

You don’t need anything to walk, and yet it gives you everything—health, clarity, fun, creativity, productivity, a connection with your environment.

I walk with no destination in mind. I set out, usually with my laptop and a book and a pocket notebook in my backpack, and I walk. It might be for 30 minutes or an hour or more, and I’ll find a new place to sit down and read or write—a park or a beach or a coffee shop or a library.

I’ll write, then I’ll walk some more. There’s no set schedule, but boy, I get more writing done as I walk than I ever did just sitting around the house.

Sometimes I’ll bring my wife and kids, and we’ll explore new territory, and then I’ll find a place to rest and work. When I bring my kids, I pack a bottle of water and some snacks (fruit, PB and J sandwiches). They’re getting to be amazing walkers.

I’m in better shape than ever before, and I don’t need a gym to get fit. I sprint up hills, race my kids. It’s minimalist fitness.

Walking is my meditation. I don’t need a pillow or a yoga mat—I just walk, and clear my head, and focus on being present.

I walk, and I create, and I am happy.

Leo Babauta is the creator of Zen Habits and

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  1. This is perfect, Leo. Since our interview together on Fit Marriage, I’ve opened up my mind to make walking an even larger part of my life, and it’s been fantastic. There is no easier way to get a clear head, improve your physical fitness and get closer to your family…and it’s free!

    Thank you for the continued inspiration!

  2. “You don’t need anything to walk, and yet it gives you everything.”

    Why more people don’t walk is beyond me. 🙂 I’ve had a good role model; my 81 year old mother walks two miles a day…she’s done so for over twenty years.

    She’s fit as a fiddle, spry and very much enjoying her Golden Years.

    Thanks for reminding us to take steps (literally) — it’s free, it’s good and it’s part of a healthy lifestyle. Does it get any better than that?

  3. Leo,
    Thanks for the simple post. There’s a natural urge to complicate exercise. This is a great idea, never thought to combine it with writing.

    Thanks for an elegant post.

  4. Excellent!

    I might have to try this myself, although there’s 3ft of snow on the ground!



  5. I agree with your entire message and am an active walker of the neighborhoods! Long ago I realized the value of taking a walk or two during the work day to clear my mind. I head out the door for my 15 minute walk around the block. The first 5 minutes I leave the stress of work behind; the next 5 I slow down and breathe; and the final 5 I let my mind go where it wants. It is amazing how often I return to the office with new ideas to try and implement. I usually find myself rushing back to my desk to get started before my inspiration slips away! Walking is wonderful.

  6. Agree, agree, agree – my discovery of the many joys of walking changed my life – literally 🙂

  7. Couldn’t agree more! I walk to clear my head and recharge my creativity.

    Rarely do I come home from a good walk without a new idea or insight.

    Lately, I’ve also been using my walking time to really concentrate on listening to coaching calls, giving myself dedicated to learn instead of always teaching!

  8. Walking and writing… what an interesting idea. Walk, take a break, write, walk some more.

    I need a laptop 😀

  9. Great post and idea – after a number of months of NOT exercising, ugh! I need either a bigger chair…or to take your advice.

    (Lock the pantry, maybe?)

    Great idea, glad that Problogger Darren Tweeted it. Thumbs way up, Leo.

  10. Leo,
    I agree, I’ve always been a walker, since I was a kid. I’ve loved to walk. I’ve always lived in a place where I can just walk out the front door and keep going. I never realized how important walking was to my physical, emotional and spiritual well being until I moved to my current home where walking is dangerous. I have to drive 8 miles to find what is a great place to walk. It takes more time and planning, but it’s worth it. I just don’t do it as often. I will make a place to walk a priority when choosing my next home. I’ve done a good deal of walking in your fair city as well.
    I miss my trips to San Francisco, what a great city for walking. Boston too. Treadmills just don’t do it for me, I love to be in nature. Clears my head. Thanks for another good post Leo !!
    Crys Galivan

    • Crys,
      I have the same issue with safety, but it is probably not the same threat! Mine is dogs! I live in the country (have for 21 years) and even though there is a leash law, people out here don’t abide by it. There is a nicer park in town with a trail through the woods, but I don’t feel very safe there either! Another park is closer to my home and I never considered walking there until just now! I will have to check it out, it is next to a lake, but there are no woods on that side so it is more open and would seem to be safer.
      Glad I wrote this comment as it helped me find a possible solution!

  11. Back when I still lived with my parents, I would take long afternoon walks with either my dog or my sisters. We’d have a lot of fun exploring and talking about the things around us, and I wished I could return home and take another long walk again.

    Thanks for the post Leo. I admire your blog and the way you live your life everyday.

  12. I love this post!

    I recently “rediscovered” walking (I had knee problems) and I really love it too. I wonder why there is no more talk about walking high and how it focuses your mind in a very gentle way.

    Taking my laptop with me does not really work though. I live in Finland and at the moment it’s 1 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

  13. I’m a walker.

    My 87 year old Dad walks at least two hours everyday. He says if he stops he’ll stiffen up. He can run circles around some 50 year olds I know. He could be a poster child for a walking campaign 🙂

  14. Nothing beats starting a new day with a long and relaxing walk…it is perfect for wakening the body and mind. I find days when for whatever reason I skip my walk, I can’t get going and my creativity is just not there. I always take my notebook with me just in case I experience some inspiration, which I usually always do…

  15. Walking is great for the lower back. I have fallen arches, and walking has saved my lower back. Walking is great for the endorphin rush too. It’s great to get out and see your friends. better yet, get them to walk with you. You could put together a TweetUp while walking around with your friends. Walking is great exercise and you get to breathe fresh air and enjoy nature, and best of all – It’s FREE! Try walking around at times of sunrise and sunset – A truly Unforgettable experience!

  16. Couldn´t agree more. We are always looking for fancy ways to keep fit and here we have the basic one, doesn´t require equipment, machines, or anything else and it is good for your mind and your body. Great post!

  17. As it so happens, I’m picking up a good friend at the corner of Polk and Pine this very afternoon, for a stroll around Fort Point. Simple stuff. Repeat often.

  18. Each time I get out and do this I wonder why I don’t do it more. Getting away from everything, for me, is one of the best “idea generators” ever. It gives me time to think and process the daily deluge of information I pour over – often without having any time to fully process the info I’m consuming.

    The fact that my health can be positively affected as well as my business makes the simple act of walking or just “getting out” a major double win.

    I gotta do it more often!

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