After many months of being in our homes with restrictions on how much movement we can have, some struggled with being limited whilst others formed new, healthier habits to make the most of the time they could leave their homes.
One of the most popular activities was walking. For those who didn’t have a great interest in fitness it became an outlet for having space to themselves. For those who were unable to reach the gym, it became a way of keeping up their fitness. Walking has many great benefits, so we thought we’d introduce you to some of the best to hopefully inspire you!
“People have long understood intuitively that wandering through green space has a beneficial, calming impact on the mind.”
The urban brain: analysing outdoor physical activity with mobile EEG - PubMed
With nourishing the mind a key part of the Made By Coopers mission, walking comes hand in hand. When walking, our blood flow increases to our brains and this has a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. It helps to reduce stress, symptoms of depression and helps us manage those moments of struggle. Walking improves your mood by releasing endorphins and decreasing the stress hormone production. It’s a perfect habit to add to any wellbeing routine.
Blood & Heart Health
Not only does walking help our blood flow, but it also increases our blood health. After walking regularly for a period of time, our energy levels feel more consistent and this is because we’re reducing our insulin sensitivity and keeping our blood sugar levels balanced. This movement is also exercising the heart's ability to efficiently pump our blood around the body, whilst reducing the risk of other related cardiovascular diseases.
Joints, Bones and Muscles
“Women who walk 30 minutes a day can reduce their risk of stroke by 20%, and by 40% when they stepped up the pace.”
For Women, a Walk a Day Keeps Stroke Away (webmd.com)
Unlike other more intense activities, walking is kinder on our bodies but also a great way to maintain the health of our joints, bones and muscles. It might be an incentive that walking is linked to lower body fat and slim waists, but as a weight-bearing activity it helps maintain our bone health. For those who enjoy a challenge, walking inclines increases the activation of hip, knee and ankle muscles, keeping us feeling supple and flexible. This also relates to our joints, walking increases the synovial fluid that cushions and helps provide lubrication, while also providing them with essential nutrients.
“Walking has been shown to improve our ability to shift between modes of thought, and to improve our attention, memory and recovery from mental fatigue, all of which are important for thinking creatively”.
Dr Sowden of the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey
The benefits of walking have also linked with levels of concentration and allowing us to be in calmer and more meditative states. When we walk, we move constantly into different spaces which exposes us to new and shifting perspectives. This encourages our creativity and a short walk can provide us with a new way of approaching other challenges. This is another reason why those who walk find it easier to cope in more stressful working environments.
Connection to Nature
Taking your walk off the road and through a natural environment will offer more benefits to your wellbeing. Reconnecting with nature is known to reduce stress and help calm nerves. It can lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate and blood pressure. The Japanese have been practicing Shinrun-yoku which means ‘forest bathing’ since the eighties and these are gentle walks between 2-4 hours long that support wellbeing through sensory immersion in forest and naturally healing environments. Trees naturally give off something called ‘phytoncides’ or ‘wood’ essential oils, which have a beneficial effect on our nervous systems. This is why we use wood derived oils such as cedarwood in our Restore range, for their grounding and healing benefits.
It seems humorous to talk about walking in the sense of ‘how’, we’ve all been doing it from a very young age! But to add this into a busy schedule or find the continued motivation can sometimes be difficult.
You don’t need a reason
Some find that a walk is a great way to calm down. By leaving a stressful space or moving away from a project to find a solution it can bring clarity and calmness. Although a healthy habit, by walking regularly, the need to use walking as a mechanism for changing a mindset will lessen. The more we walk the better our minds focus, concentrate and function.
Change the route
Across the country there are millions of different routes that can be taken. From roads to footpaths, there’s plenty of space to walk. The best way to start is from the front door. There will be many avenues to explore, but without the effort needed to drive or take public transport. This helps create a habit that we’re more likely to stick to. From here, once these routes are exhausted, the idea of exploring other locations becomes more exciting. Maybe stopping on route to the weekly shop to walk a mile or two is exactly what's needed.
Accountability and friends
The best thing about walking is that it’s not a solo sport. Although there is great pleasure in having this alone time, taking someone with you (or a four-legged friend) can bring joy too. Some of the best adventures and conversations can happen in open space. It can also help to keep each-other accountable when trying to develop this new habit. Encouraging each-other on days where we might not want to go is the support you will need when life tries to get on top of you.
Pace isn’t everything
The enjoyment you will find will keep the habit going. If pressure is put on how fast or how far you're going, it may well ruin the consistency because we’ll be more reluctant to go. Saying this though, if tracking this habit is more likely to keep you accountable, then this will ultimately have a positive impact on your health.
Walking has a lot of health benefits and can help increase fitness. Our favourite benefit is the effect it has on the mind. Spending time outside in fresh air and exploring new locations can have a huge impact on mental clarity and wellbeing. There are many many routes that can be traversed and with the current uncertainty of the world, a weekend away walking is a great activity for all the family without being in close proximity to others.
written by Remy Harman, edited by Clare White