Mind & Body

Medicine for life - Walking

Posted on 3/03/18

One foot in front of the other. Taking it a step at a time. Pacing things out. The English language is full of images and metaphors related to walking – plenty of them to do with both time and patience. It’s perhaps apt given that walking can be incredibly beneficial, especially when things are feeling fraught or overwhelming.

In fact, when the going gets tough, getting on your feet is a pretty ace practical approach. It not only raises your heart rate and gives you some time/ space to wrangle with unwieldy thoughts, but also has a whole array of other tangible benefits: linked to everything from boosting Vitamin D - the perfect way to soak up a few rays - to upping your oxygen intake and circulation to helping control high blood pressure to actually living for longer. In fact, i 1 2 t’s been proven to have a beneficial impact on memory, mood, heart, brain, and more.3 And, rather unsurprisingly, according to research by Oregon State University, it can help you sleep better too.4

There’s also a whole array of research emphasizing why we should all spend more time in green spaces. From this Stanford study examining the positive effects of walking in nature when it comes to mental health5 (you can read more here6 on the specific ways nature can change the brain) to Mind’s report on ecotherapy with the University of Essex,7 there’s plenty of compelling evidence for getting outside into parks, woods, and other places where you can soak up the green.

Besides, there’s a whole wealth of books on the history, practice and creative possibilities of walking. From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust to Virginia Woolf’s essay Street Haunting, via Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse, Frédéric Gros’ A Philosophy of Walking and Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, it’s clear that the experience of being on your feet isn’t only good for your general wellbeing, but also for your imagination, your curiosity, your sense of wonder, and, occasionally, your need to problem-solve.

Walking can be both wonderfully grounding and uplifting. Whether it’s a half-hour of scuffing through autumn leaves in the park, a hike up a blustery, sunny hill, or a brisk pounding of pavements after dark when all the buildings around are lit up, it can provide the space for observation and unraveling of thoughts, as well as getting suitably out of breath.

Resources:
1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Walk-Dont-Run-Your-Way-to-a-Healthy-Heart_UCM_452926_Article.jsp#.WeRrfRQw3ww
2. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/05/walking-benefits-increasing-daily-steps-linkedlonger-life-study-shows
3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/health-benefits-walking/
4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/losing-weight-and-belly-fat-improves-sleep-201211145531
5. https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/
6. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/
7. https://www.mind.org.uk/media/273470/ecotherapy.pdf

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