There are tasks we all have to do every day. We sleep, we wash, we eat.
I walk. For at least 30 minutes a day, every day, I go on a brisk walk… wherever.
I can’t remember why I started. I certainly haven’t always just gone for a walk. But sometime between five and ten years ago, I decided to take up the habit.
Now I have to walk every day. If I don’t, it feels as wrong as not having brushed my teeth. I might not go for my walk on Christmas Day, but it feels as naughty as eating chocolate for breakfast.
There are several reasons why I walk. It gets me out of the house, or away from work. It’s a way of getting fresh air, and a bit of sun if I’m lucky. It blows away the cobwebs and clears my head.
It is also my way of trying to stay relatively fit and healthy. Walking might seem rather lightweight. But I do walk briskly — enough to be out of breath after a good half hour stint.
I’m not remotely interested in joining a stuffy, sweaty gym. And although it’s a cliche to say it, it is true that many runners I know have had knee problems, and that’s not for me.
According to NHS Choices, regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers. The mental health benefits of moderate exercise such as brisk walking are also well advertised. According to Mind, 88% of people saw an overall improvement in mood after going for a walk.
The benefits to the mind are probably the main reason for my regular walks. There is no question in my mind that going for a walk puts me in a better mood. It gives me time to myself; space to think.
I was interested to read BBC News article praising “purposeless walking“. It turns out that many writers, creative thinkers and academics have liked to walk for the sake of walking.
Even when I have a purpose for travelling, I always walk if I can. Unless it’s an emergency, I walk almost every journey that will take me less than 30 or 40 minutes by foot. The smugness I gain from not using any fossil fuels adds to the lightened mood I receive from walking.
Despite living in a city such as Dundee, I don’t have any problems finding pleasant places to walk. Within easy walking distance of where I live are a handful of parks, Dundee Law (with its accompanying forest) and the Miley Nature Reserve (one of Dundee’s hidden, under-advertised pleasures).
St Andrews, the town where I work, is small. But it packs a picturesque punch. You might be surprised how much of the world can be taken in during a 40 minute walk at lunchtime.
In St Andrews you can choose to walk along two long beaches at either end of the town. Or there is the Lade Braes, varied walk that almost secretly takes you from the centre of town out to the far outskirts. It winds behind a school, then goes between houses, through a park and a forest before running alongside a burn. Even just wandering round the streets is a pleasing activity.
It is currently National Walking Month, and next week is Walk to Work Week. According to Google Maps, it would take me about 4 hours and 30 minutes for me to walk to work. But I’m still kind of tempted to give it a go one day.