Walking is one activity which can be undertaken by almost anyone anywhere and it has enormous health and wellbeing benefits. Often underestimated and even overlooked as a way of maintaining and promoting health, walking uses the whole body and all the major muscle groups. It is an excellent way to keep active, to improve posture and breathing and to maintain flexibility of mind and body.
Walking allows us to connect with the changing seasons, observing the trees in their various states of dress and undress throughout the year. Known as forest bathing after extensive research in the far east and now available on prescription in some parts of Scotland. Spending at least twenty minutes amongst trees and in nature three times a week produces significant physiological changes including reduced heart rate and blood pressure, decreased cortisol levels and an increased sense of wellbeing. The impact on mental health which has recently been flagged is nothing new, although its good to see the science catching up with what we intuitively know is good for us. Stop ‘doing’ and go for a walk in the woods.
Walking is free and everyone has somewhere they can walk so its readily available. It requires no specialist equipment, just the right clothing for the weather on the day. It can be undertaken all year round at any time of the day, evening and even night time. It really is the most flexible and accessible of all health promoting activities for mind body and spirit.
Try to increase the amount of walking you do each day and build extra steps in by leaving the car at home whenever possible, walking to school or work rather than taking the bus and allowing more time to walk rather than relying on public transport. As you prioritise walking and become more mindful on your walks, you will begin to really look forward to and appreciate this space in which to connect with yourself, your body and the great outdoors.
Usually the only thing that’s needed is a change of mindset. When we think differently and realise that walking can become an everyday part of our Self Care we give it priority, we give it our attention, and whatever we place our attention on will grow.
A build up of stress is one of the drivers of degenerative disease. Walking in nature is a natural antidote to stress. Our bodies begin to relax and our internal pharmacy releases endorphins which assist healing. This is the opposite of the stress response which triggers a release of adrenalin and cortisol keeping us in a heightened state of alert, stressing our endocrine system, and increasing wear and tear on the whole body.
Wellness is a state of being which we can consciously nurture through the practice of self care including a daily walk in nature. Your mind and body will thank you and the benefits are far reaching in our elevated mood, sense of wellbeing, improved overall health and ability to get a good nights sleep!!