Wellbeing Wizard

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Walking for Wellbeing
Written by Catherine Davis   

I have two doctors, my left leg and my right. George Trevelyan.  

The health benefits of regular physical activity are considerable. Not only does it help us to keep fit and stay in shape, it also enhances our sense of well being and improves and sustains quality of life.

Walking is quite possibly the best form of exercise, being what our bodies are naturally designed to do.

Walking is good for the heart and lungs. It builds and firms muscle; helps to control body weight by boosting metabolic fitness; improves flexibility and coordination; increases bone density and stimulates the immune system.

There's increasing evidence that walking can enhance mental well being too. Health professionals now recognise that exercise in general, and more specifically outdoor activity, has a definite, positive psychological impact. Walking can lift mood, help to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression and contribute towards a relaxed, more creative state of mind. In short, we feel better and live longer. And walking is free, it could even save you money!


In a world where the pace of life seems to quicken, walking gives us the power to slow down time, notice and appreciate our surroundings. It can quieten our inner chatter and nurture a calm in which we can centre ourselves, meditate on matters and think more clearly.

Science now backs the idea that walking improves brain power. Going for a lunchtime stroll can restore concentration in the middle of the working day. And walking for half an hour three times a week can boost metal abilities such as abstract reasoning by up to fifteen percent.


Walking has particular psychological benefits because it opens up our horizons – so used to indoor culture and the confines of home or office. It allows us to de-clutter our minds, free our thoughts and put things into perspective.

Research has shown that walking in countryside surroundings promotes the greatest feelings of well being. Connecting with nature and the environment – the seasons, scenery, waves and wildlife – can be invigorating and therapeutic, revitalising both body and spirit.

Fresh air and exposure to the elements also communicates valuable information to our genes. Being outdoors in cold air or warm breezes lets our bodies know what time of the day and year it is so that they can serve us better, dictating appropriate eating and sleeping patterns.

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy, but otherwise healthy adult than all the medecine and psychology in the world. Paul White


While too much exposure to the sun can be harmful, natural light is vital to our health.  Sunlight triggers chemical reactions in the brain that regulate a healthy mood and restful sleep.  It is also essential for the production of vitamin D, which our bodies need to absorb calcium and maintain strong bones.  Walking outdoors, in the natural light can enhance these physical benefits.


Walking as part of a group is a great way to meet new people as well as explore new places. As a social activity, walking can build confidence and self esteem. If you're not the one in front with the map and the compass, you can always have a chat at the back!


Walking is easily incorporated into daily life. Aim to walk as much as possible and remember that every little bit counts. Experts recommend walking for thirty minutes at least five times a week, which can be split into ten minute chunks to accumulate the total. It's also generally agreed that brisk is best, which means walking fast without overexertion.


Finally, wearing a pedometer can be useful and satisfying when charting your progress.  As you clock up the miles over weeks or months you could plot a course on a map or an atlas and keep track of  where you would have got to if you were walking across America, through europe, from John O'Groats to Lands End or wherever you'd like to go.

Related Items: Walking  Hiking  Trekking

Walking for Wellbeing Resources

Walking the way to Health
WHI supports & encourages healthy walking in local communities 
Natural England’s Walking the way to Health Initiative encourages people to enjoy their local natural spaces and benefit their health by taking part in health walks. They’re the largest national body promoting and setting the standards for led health walks and support over 525 schemes, available through their walk finder. 

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