Clearly the most sustainable form of travel requiring only your body’s energy and a pair of supportive shoes instead of fossil fuels that pollute the environment, walking is also a totally free and highly effective way to feel a whole lot better in both body and mind. It’s low in impact, so you won’t hurt vulnerable backs or knees, it’s toning for the thighs and bottom, it burns calories steadily and safely and it will also help you maintain a strong immune system and healthy bones and joints.
Brisk walking in fresh air also clears the head, improves brainpower and boosts concentration. Writers and philosophers from Aristotle to Wordsworth walked regularly to help them think and create, and it’s an effortless way to subconsciously work through feelings and situations that are going on in your life.
Most vitally for these challenging times, according to the mental health charity MIND, walking is also an effective medication for mild to moderate depression, a mood booster that’s especially beneficial if you’re walking in open landscapes, with all the elements around you.
According to British GP Dr William Bird, this is because by walking in open landscapes we’re getting back to what our ancestors used to do. ‘Walking high up by the sea, for example, is so enjoyable because deep inside the most primitive part of your brain, you recognise there’s water available and you feel safe being able to look down on the surroundings’.
Researchers at Duke University in the US back up Dr Bird’s research. They compared the effects of exercise on depression to the effects of taking Zoloft, an antidepressant from the same drug family as Prozac. After four months, they found that the drug offered no advantage over exercise, and after a year, whilst a third of patients who had been taking the drug were back to feeling depressed again, 92% of those who had been taking regular exercise instead continued to feel well.
So before you get into your car, onto a bus, or take a train – consider if you haven’t got the time to walk to your destination instead.
CAUTION : Traveller mood booster walks, hikes or runs to be taken with care!