the benefits of walking in nature.
If growing up in the countryside has taught me one thing, it is the importance of being in nature. My childhood was filled with calming walks in the woods, lively mud fights, and fun trips to the beach. Now living in a city, it is often very difficult to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and this can really take a toll on my mental health.
When I am feeling slumped, stressed and sluggish, my motivation suffers but a very simple fix for this is to go for a walk. Now living in Bath, it has become clear that a walk around a city is just as enjoyable and refreshing as one in the countryside.
exercise and your mental health.
It is common knowledge that exercising is good for your mental health due to the physical, mental and social benefits. Getting your body moving and increasing your blood flow produces endorphins, your body’s “happy chemicals” that relieve stress and pain. Going to the gym or doing aerobic exercises, such as jogging, swimming, and cycling, are proven to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression.
However, often we do not have the time, effort, or motivation to go to the gym or take part in a full aerobic workout. This is where I find walking a much easier and convenient way of exercising.
the importance of walking.
The UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults aged 19-64 should undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. This may sound like a lot but only amounts to 30 minutes of walking, 5 days a week. It is also recommended that children and young people aged 5-18 should engage in physical activity for around 60 minutes a day - hence why PE is such an important part of schools. Regular walks will:
● Lower blood pressure and enhance the performance of the heart, lungs, and blood circulation
● Reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes
● Help maintain weight and therefore improve body image
● Reduce the risk of illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer
● Improve the strength and flexibility of muscles, bones, and joints
● Boost your immune system
● Improve your mental health by lifting your mood, encouraging healthy sleeping patterns, and reducing stress and anxiety
Science aside, I find walking has a calming effect as it is a wonderful way to connect with your surroundings. Often, paying attention to these simple things will pull your mind away from stressful thoughts and feelings.
‘10 minutes matter’.
Now, some of you may be thinking that as nice as regular walks may sound, your schedule is way too busy to be able to fit them in. If this is the case (and even if not), then ‘10 minutes matter’ walks may be just for you.
The idea behind this concept is that each day you schedule 10 minutes of walking downtime. We live in a busy world, full of demands and stresses. Taking a 10-minute walking break from work can boost productivity. For the most effective results, switch your phone to airplane mode and give yourself a well-earned break from screens and technology.
You may prefer to take part in this downtime with a friend which is great for motivating yourself and them. However, the only rule is that you are not allowed to talk about work or other stressful factors. Spend this time enjoyably, laughing, and talking about positive things.
The purpose of this technique is to minimise cognitive boredom, which occurs when you perform repetitive tasks for long periods of time. Integrating these practices into our life enables us to rest and recharge, boosting creativity and diminishing stress.
Short walks encourage blood flow and keep us mentally sharp. They are a secret weapon that we should be utilising. England’s Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, agreed with this by stating, “If a medication existed which had a similar effect [to physical activities, like walking] it would be regarded as a ‘wonder drug’ or a ‘miracle cure’”.
a closing note.
At this time of year, people (like myself) often start to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons. With winter looming around the corner, you may be starting to feel uneasy about this. But, as hard as it may seem, get outside and walk! Absorbing vitamin D through natural light is one of the most beneficial ways to overcome SAD.
I am so thankful to live in a city as stunning as Bath. Walking through the streets and seeing such beautiful buildings is astounding enough, let alone the many walks to go on. My favourite places to explore and connect with nature are Sydney Gardens and the Botanical Gardens.
Where's your favourite place to walk in Bath?