Walking therapy: the power of the outdoors

Whatever the weather, it’s time to step outside and enjoy all the benefits of a walk.

relaxed woman walking at the parkAs a child I went on family walks with our dog to places that I found adventurous, the woods, round a lake, the countryside, as well as the regular walks closer to home.

With school I went on hikes. I was the child wearing the bright red Kagool – mum admitted when I was much older she chose red so I could be seen and hopefully not get lost! Although that did not stop the group of us getting lost, but that’s another story…

I continued to enjoy walking in my adult life. When I lived in London I would explore the city, parks and the Thames. And now I live in the beautiful countryside I can and do step outside of my door and walk in the surrounding hills and valleys.

I’ve also ventured further afield. Some people questioned me when I told them I was going to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrim route from France across Northern Spain.  It was both a wonderful and life-changing experience.

A wonderful way to exercise

Today we are told walking is a good form of exercise, that it improves our physical health and helps us become fitter. The NHS now recognises walking as reducing the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma and stroke, as well as obesity.

It can positively impact on our mental health, increasing our feel-good factor and self esteem, reducing stress and anxiety along the way.

How often do you go for a walk for no other reason than to go for a walk?

We take walking for granted. Honestly, how often do you think about the act of putting one step in front of another?

Over the years I’ve realised that I walk for several different reasons depending on my mood and what is happening and how I walk differs:

The ‘thought walk’ helps me work my way through a problem. I might get a new perspective on an issue, sometimes an answer or I remember someone’s name who I can contact to help. A thought walk often leads to new ideas.

The ‘mindful walk’ is when I concentrate on each step and breathe as I walk, giving myself a break from all the thoughts, worries and concerns, talking and social media. A time to focus on the sensation of my foot hitting the ground, feeling the wind on my face or the heat from the sun. And yes, I do this in the rain and enjoy the sensation of the raindrops on my face.  Mindful walking is both calming and energising.

The ‘mood walk’ is great if I’m annoyed or upset. I walk off the irritation to often find I return feeling better able to deal with whatever had set me off. Or if I’m feeling down, walking lifts my mood, the endorphins kick in, I notice things around me and there is a bounce in my step. On my return I feel happier.

Of course there are many other walks you can go on including a family walk, dog walk, shopping walk, power walks, Nordic walking, or the MoonWalk, to name but a few.

If you walk with intention and purpose and at a brisk pace regularly you will feel the benefits both physically and mentally. It’s a great way to enjoy your surroundings and enjoy new places.

So will you go on a walk this weekend, will you make walking a daily activity, will you reach your goal in steps? I hope so…

Anne Goodridge

About Anne Goodridge

I am a life coach, working with people to reconnect with their dreams and then to become dream achievers. Following traumatic events in my personal life and experiencing work-related stress, I spent some time walking the Camino De Santiago, a 500-mile old pilgrim walk. For me this was life changing. I am now passionate about people overcoming the stress of their daily lives whether it be work related or personal, so they can live the life they want. I am fortunate to live in the beautiful Peak District and am inspired by the environment around me. Find out more at my website or contact me through Linkedin.

  • Deborah Garlick

    Love a good walk Anne, great article!

  • One of my favourite things is walking on Ilkley Moor. Walking is a great way to get in touch with nature, get fitter and enjoy a shared interest with friends.