BLOG: Why I walk
Posted: Tue, 21 Nov 2023 09:43
Local Armthorpe resident Kevin shares with us his passion for walking and what benefits it has brought to his life...
Walking has always been and will always be a very important aspect of my life, from when I was a young boy when I used to walk with my pet Labrador dog 'Dexi' along the banks of the river Don to walking today with my wife Diana and son Sean in the local woods near Armthorpe, or with my close friends of more than 30 years in the Peak District. Because of these experiences the great outdoors has always been my favourite pastime. At a young age I probably didn't realise the health benefits that walking, and nature brings to us all, but science now is proving this fact about the physical and mental health benefits of regular walking and spending time in the countryside and being surrounded by nature.
The countryside can broaden our horizons and stimulate our minds to things other than work and everyday living. Walking is a free and an easy way to get more active and become more physically and mentally healthier, it's low impact compared to other forms of exercise, and it can be overlooked as an underrated form of exercise. It can maintain our overall good health, combating and reducing the risks of a variety of different health conditions such as improving depression, fatigue, can prevent unwanted weight gain, less stress on the joints, improve posture, improve balance, and reduce the risk of diseases. And you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to get the best out of the many health benefits walking as to offer!
The Japanese practice of Forest Bathing (Shinrin Yoku), where people will immerse themselves into the woods or countryside and walk or just sit out in nature and connect to it through their senses of hearing, smell, taste, and touch is something I regularly do in my local woods. Two wooden benches have been constructed against some trees, and just to sit there and listen to the birds, look at the different trees, the colours and smells it can really take you away from everything for a short period of time and change your mood.
Many people seem to be moving through life in an 'auto pilot' mode, rushing through life without stopping and noticing things that are around them. We need to be paying attention to the present moment and to try and stop worrying about or living in the past or pre living future worries or events.
When you have been busy all week at work or at home it's very hard to slow down altogether, and difficult to know how to just stand still. Spending that little bit of time in nature on a regular basis, looking at the different scenery, colours, smells, plants, birds, and animals gives your brain a break, allowing us to focus better.
I've talked about the health benefits of walking, how your physical and mental wellbeing vastly improves with walking in the great outdoors, but also when we walk in a group it can provide added benefits. Talking face to face with your friends is one of the most intimate, simple, and most pleasurable things in life to experience. When you walk together you get to know your friends better, share jokes, laughs, talk about your worries at the time, take and give advice, or just put the world to rights with each other.
It is easier to motivate yourself and to participate in a walk if you arrange to do this with friends, encouraging each other along the way. Spending time with friends is very gratifying, improves your mood, reduces stress, and improves your self-esteem. Friendship can be a great prescription for all kinds of mental and physical pain, coping with all kinds of trauma, so it's no wonder people turn to their friends in times of crisis. Our walking group has become a very important part of all our lives, and we all really look forward to the walks, not just to be out in the great outdoors, but to see each other and catch up, share jokes, experiences and share our worries.
When you have a worry, just to be with others - even if you're not talking about the problem directly can take your mind off the situation and can really help you through a crisis or problem you are experiencing.
There are lots of walking groups across Doncaster who would welcome you to join them - take a look at the walking calendar here to find out what is on near you: https://getdoncastermoving.org/walkingcalendar