You don’t need me to tell you that walking is good for you, you know that! But we all struggle to find the time, the energy or the motivation to actually get out there from time to time (yes, even me!). The great news is it doesn’t need to be hard, and with wide ranging benefits such as reduced stress, improved concentration, boosted happy hormones and increased energy levels, it’s definitely something worth making the effort to do!
Here are five tips to help you get out walking more – and to enjoy the experience!
1. Make it achievable.
Let’s be honest. If it feels hard to do, you’re less likely to do it! You don’t have to walk far, or for long, to get some benefits. A brisk 10 minute walk around the block is better than nothing and will get the blood moving around your body. Great if you’ve been sat at a desk all morning! Even better, find a local park and take a stroll during your lunch break, or stop off at a woodland reserve on your drive home. Visit a local country park at the weekend, or pick up a book on short walks in your area for ideas (the pathfinder guidebooks are great!). Make sure the distance and terrain is appropriate for everyone in the group so that everyone can keep up – it’s no fun struggling half way through a walk!
2. Make it fun!
Particularly important if you have kids, but a walk also needs to be fun for you too! Perhaps you could play games (hide and seek, poo sticks, stuck in the mud), design a scavenger hunt (find a red leaf, a black pebble, a white feather…), jump in puddles or make dens. Something I love to do is go foraging – at this time of year elderflowers are everywhere and it’s so simple to turn into a refreshing sparkling elderflower drink, then later in the year there’ll be blackberries and hazelnuts. There’s real joy to be had in collecting something from nature and cooking with it later! (Just make sure you are 100% confident what you are picking is edible!)
3. Make it comfortable
Often overlooked but so important – wear appropriate gear! You don’t need to splash out a fortune if you’re only heading out for the occasional walk, but at the very least make sure you wear something sturdy on your feet. There’s nothing worse than getting cold, wet or blistered feet, or worrying about getting dirty. Wear wellies or hiking boots if it’s wet and muddy and you’ll enjoy your walk so much more! If you’re out for a while, take water, snacks and some tissues. A thermos of tea and some biscuits are a particular staple of mine – sitting on a tree trunk, gazing out over a view, with a mug of tea in hand, is hard to beat!
4. Make it social (or not!)
Who you are walking with can make a massive difference to your experience, so think about it carefully. Do you want peace and solitude? Then walk alone, or with someone quiet and calming! Do you want companionship? Then choose a good friend, or family, someone you’ll enjoy spending quality time with. Do you want support or guidance, or to meet new people? Then consider finding a guided walk – community magazines often advertise local walking groups or you can search for a guide to lead a private walk.
5. Make it count.
Reflect on why you are walking, and maximise your chances of achieving that aim. Do you want to get away from it all and switch off? Then switch off! Literally! Put your phone away and tune in to what’s around you. Really engage your senses. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? We rarely take the time these days to stop and just be. And yet it is vital if we are to beat that feeling of overwhelm and “stop, I want to get off!” My events are phone-free zones, with attendees often feeding back that the chance to properly switch off was one of the most beneficial aspects of the day! So give yourself the time to disconnect with the busyness of modern day life for a while.
If you are walking to get fit, make sure the walk stretches you. Design a route which includes some steep inclines, walk at a brisk pace to increase your heart rate, find some steps to walk or (if you’re feeling particularly energetic) run up. If you are walking with your family or friends, be present. Leave the daily stress behind for a time and engage with your partner, your children or your friends with love and playfulness. Connect with your own inner child and enjoy the experience!