1st Trip to Disney? Why You MUST Start Walking Now!

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Updated for 2017!

What’s the most important thing you can do for your next Disney vacation?

I realize the answers will vary for this question. Save money? Make your Advances Dining Reservations 180 days in advance? Plan your three FastPass+ rides in advance? Pick a hotel room that doesn’t wreck your budget? All those planning details are indeed important, but I’m declaring that what’s most important is far more basic than any of that, and it’s actually a four letter word. Ready?


You really need to get out and walk before you take your first trip, or even your 50th trip.

Start walking more.

 Read: The Day You Arrive at Disney World, Don’t Waste Your Tickets on This…

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First, let’s take a look at some numbers and talk about how far Americans typically walk on an average day.

Researchers generally recognize one mile of walking will cover about 2,000 steps, and the fitness community typically urges people to take at least 10,000 steps a day to maintain good health, which is equal to about five miles of walking. A person is typically considered sedentary if they take less than 5,000 steps per day.

Well.blogs.nytimes.com reports that research using pedometers to measure movement revealed Americans are thousands of steps behind other countries when it comes to daily physical activity. If you’ve seen our expanding waistlines lately, then this is no surprise to you. Data collected showed that Americans, on average, took 5,117 steps a day, far short of the averages in western Australia (9,695 steps), Switzerland (9,650 steps) and Japan (7,168 steps). The fitness gap detected by the pedometer studies is equal to about 30 to 40 minutes of walking each day.

Let’s break it down by marital status and gender.

The pedometer study showed that American men, with an average daily step count of 5,340, move more than women, who averaged only 4,912 steps a day.

Being single was associated with taking more steps. Single people averaged 6,076 daily steps, compared with 4,793 steps for married people. Widowed participants, bless their hearts,  moved the least, averaging 3,394 daily steps.

Ok, so as a nation, we stink at walking, but what does this have to do with Disney?

Read: To Get Home From Disney With Your Souvenirs, Bring Less of This…

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If you have been on a vacation to either of the Disney locations, then you know all about walking. If you haven’t been, here are the unofficial facts. You will walk 10 to 15 miles a day at Disney World, on average, depending on which theme park you visit. Some days may be less, some days may be more, especially if you are a park hopper.

Disneyland visitors say, because it’s a smaller park acreage-wise, you will average six miles and up per day. However, Cheapskate Reader Douglas says this is not taking into consideration the one Disney park essential – Fastpassses! “My feet hurt twice as bad when I go to Disneyland vs. Disney World. I was trying to figure out why, and I came up with the following theory. Because Disneyland and California Adventure are right across the street from each other, hopping multiple times a day between the two parks is not uncommon, especially if you do it to maximize Fastpasses (you can have an active fast pass at each park). So I’m not sure I agree that you walk that much less at Disneyland, my feet tell me I actually walk more.”

Sounds like if you plan to park hop in Florida or California, you had better be ready for serious mileage. That’s going to be tough for those of you who are currently walking under three miles each day.

Honestly, there is not one day I spend at Disney that I don’t mentally kick myself for not “training” more for my vacation. I have a full-time job, and achieving over five miles of walking on a weekday is sometimes just impossible, depending on weather conditions, housework, and general day-to-day chaos with three kids, a husband, and several dogs that walk so slow. Some days, I just like to walk to my couch and take a nap.

You thought vacations were for relaxation? I personally do not come home relaxed and refreshed from a WDW vacation. I’m a big walker at Disney. I stand on the grounds of those fabulous resorts, and I just want to walk around and see the architectural sites. For years I wore  a pedometer on vacations, and now I use my Fitbit, so I know Disney mileage forward and backward. My most outrageous day? 21 miles. Lowest day? 4.5 miles.

Even if you are making that 10,000 steps each non-vacation day, and good for you if you are, you are still falling a good bit short of what it will take to get through your Disney World jaunt. So how would you go about training for all that walking on your Disney vacation?

Read: Take A Break During Your Disney World Vacation For This Free Activity!

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Wendy Bumgardner from About.com Guide talks about walking miles and miles a day. “From personal experience, exceeding 8-10 miles, even if you are used to walking for 6 miles, is more of a challenge. You can do it, but are likely to develop blisters in new places. Shoes and gear that worked fine for two hours may not be ideal for four hours. This is why you should build up mileage steadily rather than leaping from no walking to walking for four hours straight.”

Ms. Bumgardner gave advice for training for a 13 mile half marathon or a 26 mile marathon.  “You walk a long day every week and increase that mileage by a mile a week or two miles every two weeks. There is an amazing training effect that happens. Twelve miles may have seemed very difficult the first time you reached that distance. But six weeks later when you are walking 18 mile days, the first 12 miles are easy and no strain at all.

Wait, wait, who said anything about walking marathons, or even half marathons?

Me. Do the math. If you walk a 13 mile day at Disney, taking in Epcot and park hopping over to the Magic Kingdom for a seven hour ride-everything-you-can marathon, that is the equivalent to a half marathon. The difference is you walked it rather than ran it.

I told you it was a four letter word.

Read: Why Extra Magic Hours Are Totally Worth a Cheapskate’s Money!

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You are going to walk and walk and walk at Disney World, and while you will have a blast, you will be tired. Your kids and their little legs will be tired. Statistically speaking, your husband is walking more than you now already, so he may not be as tired, but he’ll be tired all the same. I come home exhausted.

I come home promising myself I will train more for my next vacation.

And you should too, so you can enjoy your vacation more. Time is money at Disney, and sitting on a bench resting your aching feet and legs is wasting your vacation time and the hard-earned money you’ll spend there.

Now that I have convinced you to do more walking before you head off to Disney, there are many benefits to walking in general, not just in getting ready for vacation. Well.blogs.nytimes.com reports the countries that reported high average daily steps had lower obesity rates, ranging from 3 percent to 16 percent. By comparison, about 34 percent of adults in the United States are obese.

Dailymail.co.uk quotes personal trainer Lucy Knight, author of a new book on walking as exercise, “Walking is a refreshing alternative to complicated aerobic routines and over-priced gym memberships. It is free, enjoyable and already a part of everyday life. All you need to do is correct your technique, walk faster and for longer, and you will lose weight.” Dailymail.co.uk also reports that there are many benefits to walking, like losing weight. And who wouldn’t love that while you get ready for vacation?

Read: 7 Reasons You Should Definitely Visit Disney World in the Fall

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The Benefits of Walking

* Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh recently revealed that overweight people who walked briskly for 30 to 60 minutes a day lost weight even if they didn’t change any other lifestyle habits.

*One American study found that people who walked for at least four hours a week gained less weight (an average 9 pounds less) than couch potatoes as they got older.

*In 2011, researchers at the University of Colorado found that regular walking helped to prevent peripheral artery disease, which can impair blood flow in the legs and causes leg pain in up to one-fifth of elderly people.

*Walking can even prevent colds. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts medical school found that people who walked every day had 25 per cent fewer colds than those who were sedentary. And think how you would benefit from not getting sick before or on your vacation.

*Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so it can help prevent the bone disease osteoporosis.

*Walking makes you feel good about yourself. “For people suffering from depression, walking three to four times a week for 30 minutes has been shown to enhance their mood,” says Knight.

*Psychologists at the University of Illinois found if you take a 20-minute power walk at lunchtime, after six weeks, it could be comparable to a course of psychotherapy.

And if you practice walking for Disney before the vacation, you won’t be as tired on the vacation, so you’ll have more fun! I made that one up myself.

Read: Here’s Why the Wrong Shoes Can Cost You Money on a Disney Vacation

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I’m off to grab my walking shoes; I’ve got to get ready for a vacation! Thanks for stopping by!

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Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


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