Why I love long walks (now)

“I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something that they understood.” – Ernest Hemingway

When I was younger and my parents told me we were going out for long walks I never wanted to go. What was the point of walking for the sake of walking? Why would you walk unless you were travelling to something (and the car wasn’t available)?

Now, I get it. Like most commuters, I spend the best part of my day sitting down on a train or in an office, so when I get a chance to walk and enjoy being outdoors, I do it. Even, if that means adding 20 minutes to my commute in the morning just to walk between two tube stations. And even if that means lugging a pair of trainers around with me at work all day!

The reason is simple. Walking doesn’t just help me physically, it helps me emotionally.

At the height of my anxiety, I’d spend entire weekends indoors, telling myself I didn’t have time to go out because I needed to clean the flat, finish errands and then ‘relax’ (sit in front of the TV with a glass of wine) for the evening. I basically gave myself cabin fever and perpetuated my anxiety by not getting rid of the pent-up ‘worry energy’.

Now, if anyone asked me for a good way to get rid of stress, I’d suggest walking outdoors. My favourite ‘worry free’ walks are always in the countryside or along the coast. To me, it’s almost a natural anxiety cure. The views are a fantastic distraction from whatever I was worrying about earlier and there’s something about gentle exercise in more peaceful surroundings that makes me unwind and relax. There are fewer people and man-made distractions, so I’m pretty much alone with my own thoughts. But that doesn’t perpetuate my stress like it would if I was sitting alone indoors. Instead, it helps me to work out my worries, both mentally and physically.

Over the last year, I’ve been trying to incorporate more walking into my day-to-day life to see if it has any benefit. I started walking with my husband between tube stations in the morning, at first to up my daily step count (apparently you’re supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day – which is a lot harder than it sounds!) But the first time I skipped that walk, I realised how much I appreciated not just the exercise but the extra time I had with my husband every day to catch up.

I’ve tried walking in my lunchbreaks recently too. It not only seems to help clear my head, it energises me for the rest of the afternoon. And, after I go to the gym in the evening I don’t just jump on the tube, I walk. I only walk a couple of tube stops but it helps me to warm down and (as yet) I’ve never missed my train home. I actually find I walk faster than usual because I’m running on post-workout endorphins. Plus, the time I’d waste changing lines by hopping on the nearest tube is made up by catching the tube from a station on the right line in the first place.

So, there you have it, I guess walking is for me. And mum and dad, if you’re reading this, I totallyunderstand the appeal now! Perhaps you could accept my apology over a nice long walk?