You can walk almost anywhere, you don’t need any specialist equipment and you’ll soon discover that it makes you feel fit and healthy and leaves you with a big grin on your face.

People walking in parkWhy walk to work?

Walking is free and you can relax, listen to music and clear your head as you walk. No traffic jams, road works or finding a car park.

A 4km return walk to work will take about 20 minutes each way. This will get you well on your way to achieving the World Health Organisation minimum recommended 10,000 daily step goal. Did you know the American Heart Association claims that every hour you walk adds two hours to your life, so the more you walk, the more time you get.

When we walk we notice all sorts of things that we don’t notice when we’re in a car. Trees, birds, changes in the environment, people, sounds, smells. Connecting to our environment and noticing what is around us can help us to improve our mental health and our feelings of wellbeing.

Finding a route

Making sure you know where you’re going can help make walking a pleasant experience. You can walk along the sides of most roads in Christchurch, so you might well be able to walk the same route you would drive to work.

Take advantage of walking paths, take a route with less traffic, or a route that cars can’t take. Google Maps(external link) lets you find some of the best ways of getting from one location to another on foot. Over time you will get to know whether you are faster or slower than Google’s estimates but it’s wise to give yourself some extra time in the early days.

Mix up your day. Walk one way and get a lift the other way. Maybe even consider teaming up with a colleague to take it in turns to walk and catch a lift. You’ll probably soon find that you’re both fit enough to walk both ways.

Drive part of the way and walk the rest. You’ll be able to pick up your car on the way home. If you find you’re getting fitter and faster at walking, you can gradually park your car further away.

You don’t need any special equipment to walk to work but some things can make your walk more comfortable.

  • Comfortable shoes. You’re not going to arrive at work with a big grin on your face if you’ve got big blisters on your feet. Walk to work in comfortable shoes, even if that means changing into smarter shoes when you arrive.
  • Rain protection. A waterproof jacket or an umbrella are handy if you don’t enjoy getting soaked to the skin before your day has even started. Fancy and expensive outdoor gear is usually not necessary for walking to work, but a jacket that will keep a bit of rain off can be a good thing to have. Remember, if it’s not raining in the morning, it might be in the evening, so either take your jacket with you, leave a spare in the office, or have a contingency plan for getting home if it rains.
  • Wet wipes. If you have a tendency to perspire a lot, consider stashing some wet wipes (and maybe deodorant) in your office drawer so you can freshen up if you need to.
  • Check the weather forecast. MetService(external link) has detailed two-hour forecasts so you can see, not just the overall outlook for a day, but also what time it’s likely to rain and how the temperature is likely to change over the day.
  • Layering your clothes. You’ll probably be warmer when walking than when sitting at your desk and the temperature might be quite different in the morning and the evening. If you can add or remove layers as needed you can make sure you’ll be comfortable all day.

Need a car during the day

Some days you may need to drop off children or run errands.  Plan ahead, you may only need to make those trips on certain days of the week, drive some days, walk others.

You do not have to leave your car at home every day to make a difference. Walking once or twice a week will improve your general wellbeing, help ease congestion and make our city a nicer place to be.

If you are concerned about how you would manage without a car in an emergency you may find that a little forward planning can mitigate your concerns. For example, if you are concerned about needing to collect your child from school at short notice, find out how much it would cost to get a taxi. You will probably find that you save more than enough money through regularly leaving your car at home to pay for a taxi in the case of an emergency.

Some companies even support walking by helping with the cost of a taxi, or allowing staff to borrow company cars in the event of an emergency. Check with your employer whether they have any provisions like this so that you’ll know what options you have if an emergency does arise.

Safety

Walking in Christchurch is usually quite safe, these tips will help ensure that you get to your destination healthy and happy.

  • Pay attention to where you are walking. Be extra careful (or stop walking) when looking at your phone or map. Some of our streets are a little uneven and present trip hazards.
  • Pay special attention when using headphones. You may not hear things like approaching cyclists (especially on shared paths), the reversing beeps of vehicles coming out of driveways, or even the horns of cars and trucks. 
  • When crossing a street, keep an eye out for traffic. When using a pedestrian crossing, check that drivers have seen you, especially if it’s dark.
  • Take extra care when using ‘courtesy crossings’. These are suggested places for pedestrians to cross, often marked by raised or coloured bricks or pavers. Drivers may give way to you here but they are not legally required to do so.
  • Be predictable when sharing space. If you are on a shared footpath and cycle path try to walk in a straight line, to one side, and avoid making sudden turns. Cyclist, runners, and fast walkers really appreciate being able to pass or overtake confident that you are not about to step in front of them.
  • In icy conditions wear shoes with good grip. It really does make a difference.
  • At night, consider choosing walking routes that are used by other walkers, joggers, and cyclists. If you do see something suspicious, be ready to change your course and go to a busy public place.
  • Carry a mobile phone in an accessible place. Make sure the battery is charged.
  • Consider carrying a light. If you are going to walk in dark places, like Hagley Park early in the morning or late in the evening, carrying a small light can help other people see you and avoid bumping into you.
  • Think about walking with someone else. If a friend, colleague, or family member is making a similar journey, why not walk together? It’s sociable, and even safer than walking on your own.

Check out the New Zealand Transport Agency’s guide to How to Stay Safe when Walking(external link) for some extra safety tips.