I must admit that, if I think about choosing between catching up on watching Netflix or walking, walking would possibly come second. In fact, if I had to choose between walking and any of my not-so-guilty pleasures, like baking triple-chocolate gluten free brownies or shopping online, I would choose the latter.
But, when I think about the simplest and most COVID safe activity to do for myself, it’s walking. When considering an activity that can be done every day, with little preparation, taking a local walk, can contract or expand into the exact amount of time I have available. When requiring to do something that’s good for my wellbeing, walking works.
I try to walk three miles per day, most days of the week, and I’m not alone in reaping the physiological, mental, and emotional rewards of walking. Research has proven that when we go for a walk, we perform better on tests of memory and attention; our brain cells build new connections, staving off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age; we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down; and our attention is left to meander and observe, helping us generate new ideas and to have moments of insight. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a single bout of moderate-to vigorous activity (including walking) can improve our sleep, thinking, and learning, while reducing symptoms of anxiety.
You can improve your self-esteem and your mood with just five minutes of exposure to nature. Why does it work so quickly? Research has proven that exposure to the outdoors helps us switch from voluntary attention, which draws on our reserves of focus and energy, to involuntary attention, which requires less focus and energy. This allows us to recover from mental fatigue and refresh our psychological wellbeing.
As simple as walking seems, I know it’s not simple for everyone. Some people have mobility challenges that make walking an ordeal, or even impossible. Some of us may have responsibilities at home that limit our independence. If you fall into one or more of those categories, or a category I have missed, I hope you find something that you can enjoy to quiet your mind, keep your brain sharp and maintain physical well-being. Walk sensible when and where you can. Your body, mind and soul will thank you for it.
Both Visit Angus and Visit Scotland have excellent routes to follow, whether you are the avid rambler or easy walker, follow the links below to have a look: