Add a “German Fitness Walk” to Your Weekend Routine

The family affair traditionally ends with cake or cold beer

A family walking through a field.
Try to walk somewhere special — perhaps a country or state park within spitting distance of your home.
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Consider the volksmarch. The German tradition of “fitness walking,” which typically falls on a Sunday, calls for a non-competitive six miles through fields and forested trails, followed by torte and/or lager. The tradition is organized enough that there’s an official governing body overseeing fitness walks in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein (with an estimated 10 million regular participants).

These marches — volksmarch translates to “people’s march” — are a friends-and-family affair, as a guaranteed chance to catch up and slow down. After all, walking a full 10 kilometers takes the average person around two hours. And that’s without factoring in changes in terrain or elevation or views to stop and savor, both of which are very much welcome on a volksmarch.

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You can look into official volksmarch events in your area, if so inclined (there’s a grassroots network of 200 active clubs across the country, which hosts more than 2,500 events each year), but this is one wellness rite that you should feel free to simply crib and apply to your life in whichever way works best for you and your loved ones.

In order to lean into the “event nature” of it, though — no pun intended — consider opting for a state or country park where you can walk a little further and see a little more than normal. It’s easy to blow off a fitness walk around your neighborhood; you can always do that tomorrow. But driving or cycling somewhere and meeting people for an excursion of at least five kilometers (a mini volksmarch) ensures the tradition feels special. It’s also likelier to elicit a stream of “We should do this again”s at the end.

Going for a fitness walk with friends or family, simply put, is longevity bingo. You get to be outside, you get your steps in, and you get to connect with the people who matter most. And when it’s all over, you get to eat or drink tasty things. If you’re wondering whether that sabotages the work you’re doing out on the trails or whether cake and beer are good for the body, don’t give it another thought — it’s good for the soul!

Your weekend challenge is set: this Sunday, take a volksmarch somewhere worth walking around. Shoot the sh*t and skip a rock or two. No Sunday scaries need apply.

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