Walking is an excellent lifelong activity that is good for both the body and mind. It is also low impact, it gets you outside, and it’s free! Most students enjoy going for a walk during PE class, and I also find that it is a good time to chat one-on-one with students to see how things are going in your class. Below are some ideas to spice up your average class walk.
Before going on a walk I talk to students about the importance of being aware of their surroundings; that means only one earbud in their ear if they are listening to music, and not looking at their phone. It is also important to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and only crossing the road in a designated crosswalks. Finally, be especially careful when it is dark out – make sure that you are visible to drivers.
1. Make it a destination walk
I’ve walked my classes to a grocery store for a nutrition lesson (I recommend calling ahead first to give the store a heads up), to our local SPCA to check out the baby goats, to various events that were happening around our community, and yes, even a few times to our local donut shop for a little treat.
2. Make a workout out of it
Incorporate hills, stairs, or other activities that will get their heart rate up. You can even get permission from a high rise building manager to allow you to run their stairs. I have created a fitness walk in which students have to complete various tasks based on what they see – ex. 10 lunges each leg when they see a dog.
3. Make a game of it
Use your surroundings to come up with a challenge. If you are by a creek, give students five minutes to build rock balances and then judge which group wins. If you are about to walk up a big hill make a race out of it; or create an obstacle course – go under the rope, over the bench, and hop from rock to rock. If you have access to pedometers, see who can take the most steps on your walk, or bring a small ball that you can play pass with – see how many catches you can get in a row without dropping it.
4. Go Geocaching
Geocaching is a fun activity that only requires a phone or GPS. Students will forget that they are even exercising when they run from cache to cache. Check out my Geocaching page or go to www.geocaching.com.
5. Go on a scavenger hunt
Make a list of items that you are likely to see on your walk. The first student to collect all of these items wins. For a ‘Leave No Trace’ approach, the first student to spot all of these items wins. You can also give each student a scavenger hunt card or two, and when they see that object they have to yell it out and then hand their card back to you.
6. Practice plant identification
There are a lot of edible and medicinal plants all around us – even if you live in the city. Students get so wrapped up in identifying and tasting plants, that they forget that they are even walking. If you are not sure about the indigenous plants in your area, a local herbalist may be able to bring you on a guided walk. I received a grant for this very activity through Stewards of the Future.
7. Get Into Nature
Getting into nature (“forest bathing”) has become a major part of healing and preventive health care in Japanese medicine, and doctors even prescribe walking in the woods instead of medication.
We know that walking is good for us, but walking in the forest has even more benefits; including improved mental health, reduced stress, and improved brain function. You can even incorporate a walking meditation or a quiet reflective break into your walk for added benefits.
8. Take a walking tour
A lot of cities have self-guided walking tours, complete with maps, history, and interesting facts. They can be quite interesting and they are free! Check online or with your local museum.
9. Give students walking homework
Choose one week where students have walking homework that they will keep track of. This is a great time to talk about the risks associated with sedentary behaviour and how students can easily incorporate more walking/less sitting into their daily lives. It’s also a good time to talk about different walking apps, apps that remind you to go for a walk every 30 minutes, walking opportunities in your community (trails, clubs, the mall, etc.), and the benefits of having a walking buddy.
I hope that you are able to use at least one of these suggestions with your class, and if you have any other fun ways to incorporate walking into a PE class please leave a comment or send me a message.