Walking for Wellbeing by Her Spirit community member – Annie Foot

Walking for Wellbeing

“Walking: the superpower with a PR problem” I read yesterday. And it’s so true. It doesn’t offer the higher cardio intensity of running, the technicality of cycling, the mental and physical challenge of cold water swimming. It’s something the majority of us can do without a second thought. It isn’t something you need special equipment for, it requires little preparation, dare I say it is simple: after all you just have to put one foot in front of the other. And therein lies its beauty.

I hold my hands up as someone who has neglected walking a lot. Just the other day I said to a friend, “the problem with walking is it just takes so much longer”. But again, there is beauty in that. Last year I spent many hours walking the South Downs Way with one of my closest friends. Walks ranging from 12 to 18 miles took commitment, but we felt like we had all the time in the world. Just the two of us catching up, recounting stories, planning future adventures, and stopping every so often for a slice of cake, a biscuit, a handful of Jelly Babies (sometimes all three – shh!) The restrictions of the past year mean we haven’t finished our walk yet with two legs still to go. But rather than being disappointed we haven’t finished, I love that we still have that time to come. To soak in more of the beauty of the South Downs, but ultimately to spend time together, chatting and just being.

Returning to walking’s superpowers, completing Feet First February showed me just what a transformative effective getting out for a walk could have on my day. Working from home I feel more at risk than ever of ‘death by desk’ (Google it, it’s a fairly scary prospect). I found my step count each day getting lower and lower, and with it my energy levels and mood. February was going to be different. And it was. I was getting up earlier and not struggling to do so, walking in the dark and gradually noticing the mornings getting lighter. Seeing sunrise. Feeling refreshed. Sitting down to work alert and focused. Getting out at lunch, unwinding from the morning both physically and mentally. It takes only 10 minutes of walking to boost your mood. A quick fix with a lasting impact. No pills. No cost. Or walking at the end of the day, watching the sun set, the stresses of the day abating, drawing a line under what has gone, watching the pedometer gently tick over, reminding myself a year ago I could walk only a few steps without unbearable pain.

Nowadays walking isn’t something I look at as a second rate activity, something to do when I can’t run, on days I’m feeling too tired for cardio. Walking is a celebration of what we can do with our bodies, how far we can go self-propelled, a non-chemical and non-costly mental and physical fix, a social check in with friends, an appreciative check in with nature. Feet First February has gone a long way to fixing walking’s PR problem, and now we just need to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.