Last year, I wore one of those fitness trackers for a couple of months and became mildly obsessed with how many steps I took each day. Then the battery ran out and the tracker was put to one side and forgotten. But when I was counting the steps, I wondered about the value of some. After all, there’s a world of difference between pottering around the kitchen while baking on a Sunday afternoon and power walking up a hill.
What if some of those steps were worthless? A study from the University of Cambridge revealed that a brisk twenty minute walk every day reduces the risk of early death by 25% but is a casual saunter of any benefit? I thought about some of the steps I’ve walked in the past week in speed order:
The Supermarket Shuffle. A ponderous walk also requiring negotiations around static and slow moving obstacles.
The Sunday Saunter. A postprandial amble with time to stop and talk with friends and neighbours.
The Mindful Walk. Looking around at the landscape, stopping to photograph the light shining through the branches on a foggy morning or feeling the crunch of ice beneath the feet.
The Thinking Walk. There seems to be an optimum speed at which my brain works best and I can mull over problems or make grand plans. Bill hates it when I return from a walk with the words “I’ve been thinking …”
The Dog Walk. Brisk walking interspersed with stops to attach or remove the lead, backward walking as I scan the horizon for my dog and bending down to nip under barriers.
The Nordic Walk. Fast walking, propelled by poles. Only undertaken in a group away from home as I feel too self-conscious to stride out with poles around the farm.
The Walking Netball Walk. Very fast walking in short spurts co-ordinated with catching and throwing a ball and avoiding collisions with other players.
While I might not be getting an intense aerobic workout from all these forms of walking, I enjoy them and they get me outside in all weathers (apart from supermarket shopping). If being outside and active makes me happy then it must be doing good so it doesn’t surprise me that Natural England have concluded that walking can result in improved self-esteem and mood states. Walking is good for mental health.
Walking is good for physical health too, improving levels of brain function and helping your heart. It’s often said that if walking was a medicine, we’d all be at the doctor’s asking for a prescription as it does so much good.
Best of all, walking needs no fancy equipment beyond a comfortable pair of shoes; you don’t have to travel great distances and you can do it alone or with friends.
Phew! Those steps are all worthwhile. They just have different values.
Do you walk for pleasure? Are you a mindful walker embracing the world with every step or do you stride purposefully from A to B?
Do you like long distance walking? Why not give it a try? Read about our long distance walk along The Jurassic Way here.
You might also like to read these articles about the joys of walking:
Hygge – Celebrating the Cold, the Bleak and the Blissful
Waste Not Those Feet