Linking Walking and Wellbeing: A Personal Journey
Take a walk………. with John!
The benefits of being outdoors and in nature are well documented and nature is the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021.
My earliest memory of walking is as a child with my Dad, we did not have a car so walking or getting a bus was a big part of my childhood. As I got older cycling took over and then when I learnt to drive and got a car the walking stopped!
It was in my mid-twenties when I wanted to get a bit fitter that I rediscovered walking. Joining a local walking group got me out walking regularly and helped improve my fitness. That’s when I got the walking bug!
I’ve really developed a passion for walking. It’s what I do most weeks either solo, in a group or leading a group walk!
How has walking helped my mental health and wellbeing?
The exercise, fresh air and social interaction that walking offers can be hugely helpful to wellbeing.
Personally, it has helped me to take time out of a busy schedule to relax. It reduces feelings of stress and anxiety by distracting me from my thoughts. Quite often, I solve problems that I have been struggling with whilst I’m walking!
Through walking I have made new connections and friends that I’ve met in walking groups and on walking holidays have been luckily enough to have walked extensively throughout the UK, in Europe and as far as New Zealand.
It has helped to improve my confidence, leadership skills and navigation skills and achieving my Bronze Award in the National Navigation Awards Scheme. I now regularly lead walks for local Rambler’s groups. This inspired me to set up by own group and introduce a ‘Walk and Share’ group for Talk for Health.
How did walking and being in nature help me through lockdown?
I made a pact to myself to try and walk at least 10,000 steps each day. This encouraged me to rediscover walks in local area including parks, woodland areas and marked footpaths. I could literally walk from my front door or simply drive a short distance. Perfect during our toughest lockdown measures.
It really helped me really notice the change of the seasons, with snowdrops and Bluebells marking the start of spring, the Rhododendron’s, roses, and tulips marking the summer. The changing colours of the trees in Autumn were fabulous and such a contrast to their bareness and the holly in the winter. However, with the travel restrictions, what I really missed walking by the sea.
At the end of April, I did my first coastal walk from Newhaven to Brighton; a 12 mile walk along the clifftops and the undercliff walk. It was a fantastic to watch the rhythm of the sea, listen to the waves and smell the salt air. I enjoyed being open to the elements – luckily it did not rain! My walk was topped off with fish and chips before heading home for a great night’s sleep.
Would YOU like to go walking?
In London we are particularly lucky to have access to a wide range of green space with the Royal Parks, Hampstead Heath. We can access to over a 100 local parks in Islington and Camden. There are walking routes along footpaths like the Parkland Walk, along the Regents Canal as well as the Capital Ring & the London Loop. We really are spoilt for choice!
Choose somewhere you’d like to visit and slowly build up the time and distance of your walks. It’s important to pace yourself. This is especially important if walking is a new activity for you – or one that you’re revisiting after some ‘time off’.
Talk for Health & Walking
Our Outdoor Talk for Health ‘Walk and Share’ group is re-launching!
This will be the ideal opportunity to move away from our laptops and zoom and for us to meet up in person. (We’ll meet all the relevant safety guidelines.)
Our ‘Walk and Share’ group incorporates sharing and feedback with gentle exercise and lots of fresh air.
I hope you’ll discover that walking in nature is an enjoyable way to help your wellbeing… physical and mental.
Give it a go! Look out for details in our newsletter. See you soon!
Bio: John is a member of the Talk for Health Operations Team, co-Chair of the Archway (NAFSIYAT) Talk for Health Chair & Share Group and Trained Walk Leader.
© John Dempsey 10/05/21