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By Katy Bryce for Commute Options

Walking is truly the most simple and inexpensive way to commute. A September 2014 study by health economists at the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research in the United Kingdom reported that using active transportation, such as walking, could improve your mental health as well. Daily commuters who stopped driving to work and started walking were under less stress and were able to concentrate better and be more productive at work.

Walking is also a great way to get in a little more exercise during your day. By walking, you burn a few extra calories and jumpstart your metabolism for the day. Just think—by walking to work on a regular basis, you might be able to justify another slice of pumpkin pie or more Christmas cookies this holiday season. Walking can also help prep you for a day of sitting at your desk and helps you wind down before the rest of your evening at home. At the very least, you might find yourself enjoying our beautiful Central Oregon sunrises and sunsets during your walking commute.

You don’t have to walk to work every day! Start with one or two times a week, or pick days when the weather or road conditions are amicable. Or try combining your walk with riding the bus if you need a break, or don’t feel comfortable walking in inclement weather. Also look into carpool opportunities at your job. Perhaps you can walk one way and carpool or take the bus the other way. Find additional carpool match opportunities at www.drivelessconnect.com.

The beauty of walking is that you can get to know your community by utilizing parks, trails, paths, footbridges and other routes that you can’t use by driving in a car. Try seeking out quieter streets or paths that might be a few blocks off of the major roads. Get to you know your own neighborhood and the neighborhoods nearby. If you need a place to start, try Google’s Maps “walking directions” or check out the MapMyWalk website or App.

Brian Potwin, Education Coordinator for Commute Options suggests that you give yourself a little more time than you think, especially in the winter. “Allow yourself plenty of time in the winter when walking to work. Commuting by any means is always safer when we allow ourselves five extra minutes to get where we are going.”

Much like bike commuting, walking to work is much easier and enjoyable if you are adequately prepared. In the winter, dress warm—but not too warm. If you walk at a brisk pace, you will likely warm up during your walk, so dress in layers or stash a change of clothes at the office. Be sure to protect your head from the cold winter winds. Earmuffs are a good alternative to a warm hat if you don’t want to mess up your hair.

Days are short in the winter, so you may find yourself walking closer to dawn, dusk or even when it is dark out. Be visible by wearing a bright or reflective jacket and using a headlamp. During slippery months when the walking surfaces could be icy, try some traction devices for your shoes, such as Yaktrax. They work surprisingly well to give you added traction.

Walking to the pub or to a friend’s house for dinner counts too! Take some time to try walking instead of driving. It’s a nice change of pace.

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com