When I was a child, my parents used to take my brothers and I on long walks in idyllic parks, along beautiful rivers and over rolling hills. I hated every minute of it. It felt like forever and we would walk at the slowest pace, why do adults do everything so slowly?! I did not realise at the time how much there actually was to enjoy.
Cut to 20 or so years later, and now I love a quiet, solitary walk, just me and my thoughts. Interestingly, it turns out there are many benefits to taking a stroll, from improving your mood to actually helping you get slightly fitter.
Walking counts as exercise
If you’re anything like me, exercising is a lot of effort and the hardest past is getting started. However, you don’t have to be coughing up your lungs on a marathon or benching 200 kg at the gym, to start feeling the benefits of exercise. Any exercise, even when it’s light can improve your health and fitness.
Walking is a good light exercise, you won’t necessarily have anything to boast about at the office, but it’s something for you, who cares about what Steve in marketing thinks?
Your body just likes movement, but if you find normal walking too slow, why not change up the pace a bit and walk faster? Or up the difficulty and go for a hike, challenging terrain and an incline can make the exercise much more intense, if that’s what you prefer. Plus, hiking up hills and other such structures can lead to the best views.
Walking for a few minutes, feels good for hours
Going for a walk gets your blood pumping and activates so much more of your brain than sitting still does. It can take as little as 20 minutes to get those feel good hormones going, but the effects can last as long as 2 hours after you’ve finished walking. That’s a damn good return on investment!
To amplify the relaxing effects of walking, try heading into the woods. The Japanese call this “forest bathing” and have even started recommending it as a cheap but effective form of therapy for people with issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. Something about it experiencing nature, just soothes us humans, it’s like a bubble bath for your mind.
Walking makes you more present
I am a huge fan of mindfulness. Sitting down, on a comfortable chair, eyes closed, Breathe in … Breathe out…Ahhh… Pure bliss.
Meditation is the most common method people know of for becoming more mindful, but it’s not the only method. Walking can make you more present too. You can look at the sights, or even just get lost in your thoughts. The point is, you’ve slowed down from the busyness of your life and your just focusing on what’s there, with you. When was the last time you had some time just you and no-one else? In a world filled with beeps, flashing lights, vibrating devices and other distractions, a little time to yourself is a welcome change. Treat yourself to a quick walk on your next lunch break, you deserve it.