Walking is one of my favourite ways to spend my time and it is something that is free and easily available to most of us. Whether it is walking out from my front door or walking in a national park, the effect it has on me is always positive. I find my mood becomes lighter and usually ten minutes into a walk my thoughts have changed their focus and my attention is held by the things I am passing. It’s a great way to see the world, on foot, in close contact with your surroundings.
Humans are designed to walk, it is our natural state and our body and mind protest when we are unable to do so, contributing to some of the health epidemics many societies are currently experiencing such as obesity, diabetes and a rise in mental health disorders. Not surprisingly there are many well documented physical health benefits associated with walking including weight loss, improved sleep and reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
Walking also has a positive effect on our mental health, improving mood, reducing stress and reducing the likelihood of depression. It has a calming effect and restores our cognitive and emotional reserves.
Walking also helps to bring people together. When walking with others we have the chance to slowly get to know them. This is aided by the interest found along the walk; sharing the sight of a pedigree dog, stopping to wonder over an unusual flower, admiring a view or commenting on the way our body feels after a steep ascent. This helps to increase our social connection by gently building up a bank of shared experience.
Walking can take us out of languishing and into the realm of flourishing. It can help open our minds and we become more creative; finding solutions to problems, making connections between ideas. I recently enjoyed reading about Arianna Huffington’s decision to hold meetings whilst walking. In her book ‘Thrive’ she describes the benefits of these ‘walking meetings’ including a feeling of joy and an awareness of her senses being heightened. She says that many of her good ideas have occurred to her while walking and this certainly resonates with me. Somehow being outside, sensing the rhythm of my movement allows my mind to rest, to stop going round in circles and to open up to novel possibilities.
A Walking Plan
There are many simple ways to include walking into your day and here are a few examples.
– If you travel by bus or tube, get of one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way.
– Make full use of your lunch break and go for a walk.
– Hold meetings whilst walking.
– Find a walking buddy, you can spur each other on. It is also a good way to get to know a new colleague or neighbour.
– Join a walking group such as The Ramblers.
Give them a go and let me know how you get on.
About the author: To find out more about Bryony Shaw MAPP, please click here.