Walking is an amazing pastime and a great form of exercise – it is rarely strenuous enough to cause any injuries unlike running or cycling and best of all its free! The benefits of walking on our physical health are well documented – it’s good for the heart and lungs, as well as the muscles, but it also has a fantastic effect on our mental health. Even a short, 30 minute walk every day can make a real difference.
Scientifically speaking, walking and other forms of exercise make the brain release endorphins into the system, this achieves naturally what many medicinal drugs try to do artificially and even when walking at a slower pace, most people notice an improvement in their mood after a short while. Above all else, walking gives you time; time to think, to work through problems and come up with possible solutions, as well as time to get away from stressful influences. Physically removing oneself from a stressful environment, breathing in the fresh air, and getting the body moving has a naturally calming effect, a person can appreciate other surroundings, sounds and smells, enjoy the birds, people’s gardens, the changing sky or even take note of shop fronts, walking through a town or city is just as good as a stroll in the countryside, in fact there have been scientific studies which show physical and mental health benefits from simply walking on a treadmill indoors.
While walking alone gives one time, space and peace, walking groups can be a good thing to join, walking with others provides motivation to take part regularly and they are particularly good for socialising and meeting different people to those you may encounter in everyday life, this is really beneficial for people suffering from depression, stress or anxiety.
More strenuous walking has its place too, studies into how hill walking and trekking influence our mental health have shown that along with the results already mentioned, the sense of achievement felt by a person when summiting a hill or ending a long-distance route are wonderful, along with the effect of walking in a group and feeling a sense of acceptance and camaraderie. For nature lovers, walking allows one to see a whole host of creatures, by moving quietly and relatively slowly animals are less likely to be startled, seeing them can give people a real thrill which is always good for the spirit.