We live in a work culture which is often indoors and digital, a virtual space which enables quick interaction and some inspirational, fast-paced solutions to modern living.
But have our chair-based brains become fast-moving processors while our lungs, limbs and hearts remain idle, longing for a piece of the action?
And is this dissonance between brain and body one cause of modern-day stress and anxiety?
Of course, exercise can play a vital role in reducing tension. Increasing our breathing and heart rate supports fitness while mobility is important for balance as we age. An active lifestyle benefits our cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Walking to get lunch, using stairs, visiting gyms and counting steps are all immensely helpful – and it all contributes to your wellbeing.
But there’s a missing ingredient, and we need it – “perspective”.
For me, the action of lacing up a pair of grippy boots and heading outdoors into the fresh air for a walk delivers a sense of perspective. Not instantly – it takes a few hours – but the sense of wellbeing it creates lasts for days.
So, here’s some tips on how to get the most out of your walk, be it 10k through a park or fields, or a 20k hike in the hills…
Set off early, while it’s cool – “be bold and start cold”. Don’t wear all your essential layers unless you need to. Instead, do your warm-up exercises and head off at a good pace. Meanwhile, that anxiety-related hormone, cortisol, will reduce and those “happy hormones” will kick in – serotonin and dopamine. After twenty minutes or so, you’ll be fired up!
Once you’re enjoying your view or summit, take time to focus on what you see, hear and smell. I call it an “hour of now”. Look at the shape and size of the landscape around you, its contours and irregular rock formations; or if you’re in a valley the immense variety along a river or stream bank. How far can you see?
“Home in” on that yellow flower, or listen for a bird. Take time to “stand, stare and care” and enjoy your wild world.
Walking with someone else? Be curious and listen. People often demonstrate openness, interest and compassion when they’re walking side-by-side outdoors.
Space, time and environment enable lifelong “footpath friendships” to develop, shared anxieties are halved and, for some, loneliness discreetly avoided. If getting close to others is not your bag, simply sharing your outdoor observations can feel good.
When it’s all done, replay your day in your head – store it and celebrate your achievement. Today wasn’t virtual, it was real. While you were out there stretching your limbs and forging neural pathways, your diverted brain was quietly deleting “trash” and gaining perspective.
Maybe solutions for tomorrow’s meeting became a little bit clearer?
Richard acquired Peak Walking Adventures with Rachel Bolton in 2021. They specialise in helping clients to explore the Peak District and occasionally other mountainous areas such as The Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. For more information about Peak Walking Adventures, click here.
Richard is leading a Generation Next event on Thursday 23 June, where members of the network will join a guided tour on a Peak District trek. Places are limited and free for Generation Next members.