How to Read While Walking? [Safety, Tips, Benefits & More!]

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If you are a bibliophile like me, you may perhaps like to read at every opportunity that presents itself. Reading while walking is just one such scenario where you can use the time to learn something which otherwise would have been wasted!

You may be wondering, how exactly does this work? How do you read while walking?

To read while walking, first, identify a walking space free of any obstructions. Thoroughly inspect the surroundings and observe the objects around you. Then, hold the book slightly lower than your line of sight and begin reading while walking slowly. Look up every few steps to maintain your path.

In this article, we shall learn a thing or two about reading while walking. Plus, I’ll share some ninja tips that I’ve learned from my personal experiences so that you can be a pro at reading while walking from the start!

That, and much more! So, let’s get started!

Is it Possible to Read While Walking?

It is possible to read while walking. However, it takes a bit of practice. Start with pacing yourself in your room while reading a book. Gradually, you can move to a bigger space. Eventually, as your peripheral vision develops, you should be able to read while walking outdoors!

If you have never done this before, the task might seem daunting at first! Trust me, when my friend introduced me to this concept, I too was skeptical at first.

But, I noticed that my friend didn’t really seem to have any bruises and had been doing it successfully! I realized, it is possible to read while walking as long as there is a set process that is followed!

Why Do People Read While Walking?

Man reading a book while walking
Man reading a book while walking

One of the first questions that I had when I found out that reading while walking is even a thing was why do people do it? Why do people read while walking! This is what I learned –

There are several benefits to reading while walking. It is a good exercise for bibliophiles who otherwise usually have a sedentary lifestyle. For some people, reading while in motion allows for better comprehension. Reading while walking can also save you time when done while commuting to work!

People have their own multiple personal reasons for choosing to read while walking. Although some find it helpful there are a few others who believe it is completely unnecessary and unsafe!

Whether it is useful for you or not, is something that you will have to try out for yourself before deciding!

Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about the benefits later in the article. 

How to Read While Walking?

Okay, so now that you have decided to take the plunge, I will share with you the step-by-step process of what you need to do.

But before you start walking with a book on a busy street, make sure that you go through the complete article and first get yourself comfortable with reading a book while walking in a safe place (like your own room).

We’ll cover this section in 3 parts i.e. reading a book while walking indoors, while walking on a treadmill, and while walking outdoors.

1. Reading While Walking Indoor

When you are learning to read while walking, it is best to start indoors. Perhaps a good place to start would be your room (or any room in your house) where you can find about 10 meters of walking space.

When looking for walking space, make sure there are no objects on the floor and you have a clear path to walk on without obstruction. This will ensure that you don’t slip or stumble while reading. 

As much as possible, try to find a walking space with a straight path that is about 4 to 6 feet wide (about 1.5 to 2 meters). 

Then, follow the steps mentioned below – 

Step 1 – Hold the Book Correctly

Woman holding the booking reading it while walking outdoors
Hold the book just below your line of sight at about 30-degree angle

It is important that you hold the book correctly if you want to read while walking. 

Make sure that your head is not completely tilted towards the ground. However, you also need to be careful that the book doesn’t cover your face completely either. 

The ideal position to hold the book when reading while walking is to raise the book in front of you such that your head is tilted about 30 degrees towards the ground.

Step 2 – Memorize the Space Around You

Before you start walking, make sure you have a good look at the space around you. Memorize the path and the objects or furniture (if any) that may be present along your path.

This will help your brain be subconsciously aware of your surroundings and enable you to avoid collision with objects!

Step 3 – Start with Walking Slowly

Now that you have a fair understanding of your surroundings, hold the book in the correct position (described above) and start walking. 

Begin with walking slowly. You can walk in a two and fro motion along your walking path. Look up every 5 or 10 steps to make sure that you are walking in a straight line or within the defined walking space.

As you gain confidence, you may not need to look up that often, and you will see yourself pacing at a slightly faster rate.

Step 4 – Observation and Peripheral Vision

Make sure that you observe how you react when you are about to collide with an object or someone walking by. Merely sensing the presence of a person around you while you are engrossed in reading while walking should be considered a good sign of progress.

Make sure you practice walking while reading every day for about 20 to 30 minutes.

As you continue to read while walking, you will develop your peripheral vision over time and gradually you will become better at gauging objects or people around you.

2. Reading While Walking on a Treadmill

Reading while walking on a treadmill requires a different skill as compared to reading while walking in your room or outdoors.

When using a treadmill, you don’t have to worry about carving a walking path in your home or stress about accidentally colliding with furniture or other people in your house!

Due to these reasons, some would argue it is best to start with a treadmill when learning to read while walking. However, not everyone has a treadmill at home. But, if you do have one in your house, here’s how to read while getting some exercise on your treadmill!

  • Step 1 – Choosing a book: Make sure that you choose a book that is an easy read. You don’t want to be taking notes while walking. So, if you are planning on studying a subject, I would highly recommend against it.
  • Step 2 – Positioning the book on a treadmill: It is important to keep the book appropriately on the treadmill. Try to keep the book at about 45 degrees instead of laying it flat on the treadmill information console. This will allow you to have proper balance while walking and also avoid neck strain.

    If possible, invest in a treadmill book stand. I’d highly recommend using a book stand like the SurfShelf Treadmill Desk [on Amazon] as this stand allows you to keep the side handles of the treadmill free (as opposed to most other treadmill book stands).

    Keeping the side handles free while walking is absolutely crucial when reading on a treadmill as this will provide grip and support in case you lose your balance!
  • Step 3 – Start with walking slowly: Initially, start walking at a slow pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour (or 3 to 4 km/hour). Gradually, as you get confident, increase your walking speed to match your comfort level of walking and reading

3. Reading While Walking Outdoors

Woman holding the book and reading while walking outdoors
Woman reading a book while walking outdoors (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

I’d strongly recommend against reading directly when walking outdoors without practicing at least one of the two methods mentioned above first!

Reading while walking outdoors requires you to have additional attention to your surroundings as there are many unknowns as opposed to walking inside your home!

A lot of the steps mentioned above for reading while walking indoors also apply in this method. However, here are some additional things to keep in mind when you plan to start reading while walking outdoors!

  • Choosing a location – It is perhaps best to start with walking in a less crowded space. My recommendation is to start at a garden as a beginner. You can also choose to go to a shopping mall when it is not overly crowded. 
  • Choosing the right shoes – When you are reading while walking, the activity in itself is quite dangerous and prone to several elements that can make you stumble, slip or fall. Choosing the right shoes can certainly partially reduce the headache on that front!

    When choosing a shoe that doesn’t require any laces. If the laces open up, you may not realize it due to concentration in reading and you may fall. Likewise, don’t wear shoes with high heels. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes that provide a good grip while walking. 
  • Choosing the right time – When you plan to read while walking outdoors, it is important to choose the correct time for the activity. 

    Make sure you plan for the activity during the daytime as it is easier to read. Even if you plan to use an eReader, reading during the daytime increases the visibility of your peripheral vision allowing you more time to react if you are about to bump into something!
  • Check the weather before heading out – Make sure there aren’t any predictions of rain or strong winds. Strong winds can easily distract you from reading and make the process difficult. Rain will make the book wet!
  • Alert and awareness – It is of utmost importance that you stay alert when reading while walking outdoors. Don’t get too engrossed in the book!

    Make sure that you look up often so that you have a macro understanding of things around you. Check for shadows of objects and people to avoid colliding.

    Don’t cross the street while reading! Make sure you look up and close the book when crossing a street or walking in a busy section of the road!

Tips to Read While Walking

In addition to the aforementioned information regarding the process of reading while walking, here are some more tips that will help you become better –

1. Pick an eReader (instead of a book)

woman reading a book on an eReader while walking
Woman reading a book on an eReader while walking (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Having one hand free when reading while walking can prove to be really handy. You can use your free hand to prevent yourself from an injury in case you trip or fall. 

Holding a physical book in one hand can be tough. Thus, it is highly recommended to use an eReader like the Kindle or a Kobo [from Amazon]. These are relatively affordable options that can even be used for reading while walking outdoors at night!

Moreover, using an eReader is not just convenient due to its size, but it is also lightweight and thus easier to handle.

2. Don’t Cover Your Face

The next tip that I’d like to share is to make sure that you don’t cover your face with the book. 

I may sound like a broken record when I say it is important to position the book correctly when you are trying to read while walking. But the truth is, in my experience this one thing alone can be attributed to whether you manage to successfully read while walking or not!

So, hold the book slightly lower than your eyesight level; preferably at about 30 degrees towards the ground. 

3. Carry an Umbrella When Reading Outside

If you are planning to read outdoors, make sure that you carry an umbrella along with you!

This tip may sound like an obvious one. However, it is easy to forget to carry an umbrella especially when it is not raining! This is strictly optional but you will have a good reading experience if you use an umbrella.

If you do plan to use one, I’d recommend using this over-the-head umbrella from Luhahalu [on Amazon]. The biggest advantage of this umbrella over a traditional one is that it attaches to your head while allowing you to keep one hand free.

Alternatively, you can also use a cap or a hat. 

4. Don’t Walk Too Fast

The next tip that you will find helpful is to not walk too fast. You can start by walking at a slower pace. But, even if you have experienced walking indoors while reading, it is still recommended to not walk too fast.

Walking at a controlled pace will allow you to prevent yourself from an injury in case of an unexpected collision. 

5. Choose a Book that is an Easy Read

Make sure that you choose a book that is a simple read and doesn’t require you to concentrate too much. 

Furthermore, avoid using books that need you to take notes. Thus, studying or using textbooks for reading while walking should be avoided.

6. Carry a Bottle of Water

Finally, make sure you carry a small bottle of water. This tip is especially applicable if you plan to read while walking outdoors.

Depending on how hot it is outside and the time that you plan to spend reading outdoors, carry about 16 oz. to 32 oz. (half a liter or one-liter bottle) of water is recommended. Carrying more than 32 oz. will add unnecessary weight and make you tired faster.

Is it Safe to Read While Walking?

Generally speaking, the activity of reading while walking is not as safe and is prone to minor mishaps like tripping, slipping, or bumping into someone inadvertently. If possible, reading while walking should be avoided and other forms of reading should be adopted.

That said, if you remember a few important things, you can drastically reduce the chances of getting hurt or even getting involved in an unexpected incident. 

Here are a few things that you should remember – 

1. Avoid Unsafe Locations

This might sound quite obvious but it is easy to miss out especially when you get involved in the story of the book! (Trust me, I’ve been there!)

  • Avoid crossing a street while reading at all costs – make sure that you close the book and look up for a few minutes even if the story is at a cliffhanger!
  • Avoid sidewalks and pavements – while this might seem safe for reading when walking, there are times when either the pavement might be uneven. As a result, you may lose you balance and fall.
  • Avoid construction sites – there are times when there might be a construction or an excavation happening along your walk path. Make sure you stop reading at this point at least until you’ve gone past the site.
Woman reading a book while crossing a road
Don’t read a while crossing a road! (Photo by George Milton from Pexels)

2. Don’t Read While Walking in Crowded Spaces

Another thing to follow is to avoid reading while walking in a crowded space! Make sure you stop reading until you’ve crossed the place that is crowded. Alternatively, you can avoid such a place altogether.

Some examples of crowded spaces could be – 

  • High traffic places – a place with lots of cars, bicycles or other vehicular movement.
  • Places with lots of pedestrians – you don’t want to bump into people while walking
  • Marketplaces – another place to avoid as it can be overcrowded.

An exception to this rule is when you are commuting on public transport. Even though the bus may be in motion and crowded, the chances of you bumping into people are quite limited. This could be considered a relatively safe place for reading.

3. Don’t Read While Walking Down the Stairs

Another important thing to remember is to stop reading while walking down the stairs. You may lose your footing and end up slipping or falling. You may end up with a serious injury in such a scenario!

4. Look Up As Often As You Can

When you are read-walking, don’t get too engrossed in the book. Make sure that you look up and peep out of your book every now and then.

I would recommend looking up every 10 steps as a rule of thumb. This will allow you to be aware of your surroundings.

Gradually, as you become more experienced in reading while walking, you can increase the duration.

In either case, make sure that you are well aware of the things around you as much as possible.

5. Trust Your Instincts

One last thing that I’d like you to remember is to trust your instincts. If you have a feeling that you are perhaps going to collide with an object, chances are – you are indeed going to collide with an object.

If you feel there is someone walking towards you, then it is highly likely to be true. 

So, trust your instincts and look up to check if you feel the need to.

What are the Benefits of Reading While Walking?

There are quite a few benefits of reading while walking. I’m only going to talk about four of them that are listed below – 

1. Good Physical Exercise

Needless to say, walking is a great exercise for all of us. And, for those of us who restrain ourselves from walking simply because we consider it a waste of time, now have a reason to put the time to good use as well as get some exercise!

While it is important to maintain good mental health (and reading books definitely helps in that department), it is equally important to maintain a good physical state.

2. Saves Time

According to the Census Bureau of the United States, an average American spends about 27.5 minutes commuting to work one way! That’s nearly an hour of your day spent just traveling to work! 

Just imagine if you could utilize a large chunk of that time by reading! This is exactly what the ability to read while walking allows you to do!

You can not only save time while commuting to work, but also by merging your exercise routine along with your reading route. Basically, this allows you more time to read!

3. Improves Memory

In one of my other articles, I shared how reading improves memory. One way that reading affects memory is by improving the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors (or BNDF) in our brain.

BNDF is active in the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain areas of the brain—areas vital to learning, memory, and higher thinking. BNDF itself is also important for long-term memory.

What’s interesting about walking is that walking is known to improve the BNDF in our body! Both these activities independently are greatly helpful in keeping our brain active. However, clubbing both the activities together may have an overall positive effect (although there isn’t sufficient scientific research available yet to validate this claim).

That said, reading and walking (even independently) definitely help improve your memory.

4. Develops Peripheral Vision

Ability to read while walking forces you to develop peripheral vision in order to be more effective while doing the activity.

The peripheral vision, which usually decreases significantly as you grow older, is also useful in several other day to day activities such as driving! Moreover, there are very limited activities that can help you develop peripheral vision.

Is Reading While Walking Bad for Your Eyes?

Generally speaking, reading while walking or when you are in motion is not good for your eyes as the reading material doesn’t remain stable due to inertia. The constant movement of the reading material requires more work from the eye muscles and can cause eye strain or pain during prolonged reading.

Thus, it is best advised to take a small break every half an hour (or if you feel your eyes are tired or in pain). Stop for a few minutes. Look at the things in your surroundings. Look at things that are close by as well as far away. This will help relax your eye muscles. 

If the strain on the eye continues to build, reading may also cause headaches. If the pain continues to remain, make sure you visit your ophthalmologist.

Using Audiobooks While Walking Instead of Reading

A close up shot of woman listening to an audiobook while walking on the road
Woman listening to an audiobook while walking on the road

There’s one last thing that I would like to mention before we end this post. 

I’ve experienced that using Audiobooks like audible instead of reading while walking is far more effective. I do agree that reading a book is much faster than listening to the same audiobook (check out my other article to know why), but you do get some advantages over reading.

When using an audiobook, not only do you get to walk confidently, but you also get a hands-free experience. Plus, it drastically increases the safety element and you get to experience the outdoors!

I’d highly recommend considering an audiobook, especially when planning to read while walking outdoors!

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