Walking is an often-underrated form of exercise, but with the pandemic seriously limiting the activities made available to us, we have gained a renewed appreciation for simply going on a walk.
These days, few things require such minimal effort yet reap so many benefits. Walking improves sleep and cognitive functions and reduces the symptoms of anxiety. Best of all, it takes little preparation and no special equipment.
Our brain cells build new connections when we go for a walk, which slows the deterioration of brain tissue and helps us perform better in memory and focus. We can even deliberately change the pace of our thoughts by varying how quickly and vigorously we walk.
Walking outdoors has even greater benefits according to Dr. Jo Barton, Senior Lecturer of the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences at the University of Essex. Studies show that we can improve our mood and self-esteem with a mere five minutes spent in nature.
For those of us fortunate enough to be able to take a walk, here are five more ways to walk with purpose:
Walk for perspective: The limitations set on us by the pandemic can be draining, repetitive, and have us stuck in narrow mindsets. Walking, especially when exposed to nature, can help us recover from mental fatigue and boost creativity, allowing for a more receptive, reflective, and open mind. Pondering the beauty of nature can help shift our perspectives and increase the appreciation for everything the world still has to offer.
Walk for connection: Walking outdoors with friends and family is one of the safest social activities to partake in these days. If social distancing measures are implemented and each participant acts responsibly, walking can provide great relief to loneliness. If loved ones are unable to join the walk in-person, then a walking and talking date is just a phone call away.
Walk for learning: Going for a walk can be the perfect opportunity to learn. Grab some headphones and tune in to a podcast or audiobook to make the most of your walk.
Walk for gratitude: Being able to walk is a privilege that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to do. Reflecting on that alone is enough to kick start a stream of appreciative thoughts that you can focus on while you meander through your neighborhood, conservation area, or park.
Walk for productivity: A walk might offer you the perfect space and time for remote workers to schedule work calls or meetings. This allows us to stay productive while we walk. Or, we can take advantage of a boost in creativity and focus our reflections on brainstorming new ideas for a project that we are working on, or set new goals for ourselves.