Walking for pleasure: a simple habit we should all adopt
November 25, 2021
Let’s be honest. Sometimes getting motivated to exercise can be a real struggle. I know for me it is. I’m not naturally inclined towards it. However, being a somewhat knowledgable person, I am fully aware that exercise is vitally important. We are forever being bombarded with facts and figures on how exercise should be part of our everyday lives. If we are to look after our heart, mind, and spirit, exercise must be incorporated. So how to do that when you’re feeling uninspired to get started? Walking for pleasure has been my saviour. Throughout my life, my family has gone on walking holidays in some of the most beautiful parts of the UK. So it was always walking for pleasure with us. But by accident, we adopted a good habit that exists to this day.
Honestly, it’s totally true. For many years I’ve had a terrible time with chronic knee pain which has affected my whole leg. This means that many exercises are just not possible for me and I have to undertake them very carefully. Walking had even become an issue for me whereby I had inadvertently adopted some bad habits to accommodate the pain. Under supervision from my physiotherapist, I had to relearn how to walk properly. Walking had not been a pleasure for a while. But now walking for pleasure is something I do every day, not only as a sustainable and enjoyable form of exercise but as a path to healing. I had to start small, and every two weeks I increase my distance by a few minutes. This keeps my pain under my control, has calmed my pain response, and decreased the threat of flair-ups.
You carry your own body weight when you walk. This is known as weight-bearing exercise. Some of the benefits include:
increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
stronger bones and improved balance
increased muscle strength and endurance
reduced body fat.
Make walking a pleasure
Health benefits are important to know, but if we are to make a habit out of walking we need to make walking for pleasure our goal. We need to enjoy the activity if it is to be sustainable in our lives. This can be difficult if you live in an area where there isn’t anything particularly beautiful to look at. We often associate walking for pleasure with majestic landscapes. But this doesn’t have to be the case. We can still walk for pleasure without a beautiful setting. There are indeed many reasons to talk yourself out of doing something. But it’s all in how you approach the activity and your attitude.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Mix up your route or location to keep yourself visually motivated.
Walk with your dog or a friend’s dog for new company.
Walk with friends or family to give you conversation as you walk.
Join a walking club for added motivation regardless of location.
Change up the time of day you walk each day to alter your view.
Drive further afield to new locations when you have the time.
Be observant to the world around you and take notice of it all.
Listen to music, a podcast or mindfulness playlist to motivate or distract your thoughts.
Don’t push yourself beyond your ability. Gradually incorporate the habit for sustainability.
Feed the soul
Today, more than ever, we seem to be struggling collectively with our mental health. How often do we hear terrible stories of people who have succumbed and taken their own lives, or are addicted to various substances? Too often. Taking care of our mental health in today’s culture is more important than ever. Glued to screens as we are, living at a hundred miles per hour and sacrificing what is truly important is all taking its toll.
But we can do something about it. We are evolved creatures able to recognise when things are out of balance and realign our trajectory before disaster strikes. Aren’t we? I think we must be. Switching off that phone, coming home from work at a decent hour, prioritising our loved ones, eating in balance, making ‘me’ time, exercising regularly…we all know this stuff. So we need to be deliberate in our choices and live life well.
Beyond living well, however, there is a need to look after our soul or spirit. We are more than just flesh and bone, and as I said above, our mental health is a big part of that. If we are out of kilter in what we fill our days with – too much of one thing and not enough of another – then we start to see cracks. We can’t maintain imbalance.
This is where walking for pleasure comes in.
Getting out of the house and into the fresh air is food for the soul and mind. So many times I’ve felt lethargic and unmotivated, but once I step outside the cobwebs are blown away and I feel so much better. Giving ourselves headspace, clarity, time, even just for a little while, and on a regular basis, does wonders. Since incorporating walking for pleasure regularly into my life I have seen many improvements physically, mentally, and spiritually. I’m building strength in my leg, managing my pain response better, feeling more motivated and positive, and loving the routine of walking each day. I look forward to it. And we should all have something to look forward to, right?