"The top 5 reasons why I love walking (and you should too)"
A guest article by Walking Girl, author of the inspiring blog 'Walking Girl's Guide' (@walking_girl on Twitter).
Walking Girl is a 27 year old Londoner and avid walker, who lost four stone, beat depression and made big changes to her life, spurred on by a new found love of walking and the fantastic benefits it brought her.
Here, she writes about how walking has changed her life for the better.
I'm on a mission - trying to persuade people to walk. As much as possible.
There are lots of good reasons why walking is great - probably too many to ever do justice to, but I've decided to concentrate on the ones that have made it so important to me. I hope people who walk already will agree with what I say (and perhaps have their own points to add) and that people who don't walk will realise why they should!!
1. Looking and feeling great
I cannot stress enough what an amazing effect walking has had on my body. I used to hate my body and always felt uncomfortable in it. I felt out of shape and overweight which had a really massive impact on my confidence in general. Walking has changed all of that completely.
It's clear to me that a lot of people don't think of everyday walking (e.g. around town) as exercise. If you put the effort in though, it really is. If, like me, you go from doing next to nothing to making the effort to walk everyday I genuinely don't think you can fail to see a difference.
I've lost 4 stone now and walking has made me feel completely different about myself. Not only do I feel so much happier about how I look, but I have more confidence in my physical abilities too. I've started running (something I'd never have done before I lost the weight) and I'm confident now if I go walking with my Dad (who sets quite a pace) that I'm not going to be left behind, feeling embarrassed about being too slow.
My mental state has improved immensely, and I really believe that my huge boost in confidence and the way the exercise makes me feel - fitter, in control of how I look and more relaxed - has been an important factor in this.
2. Getting out of doors
I used to spend most of my time indoors - going between home, some form of transport and the office. Not unusual these days I think, but looking back, I don't think it was good for me - particularly for how I felt mentally.
I've spoken before about how much walking has helped alleviate my struggles with depression, and while the physical exercise and my improved confidence were a big part of this, I think just the simple act of spending more time outdoors was also very important.
This is most certainly the case when walking in the country. Breathing the fresh air and being surrounded by beatiful scenery and wildlife is such a fantastic boost to the spirits. What's perhaps more surprising is that I've found it to be true in London as well. Yes, the air probably isn't that fresh, but just the feeling of being out of doors and taking in my surroundings rather than rushing by on a bus or underground on the tube really does lift my mood.
3. Seeing the sights and discovering new places
It's amazing how easy it is when you're on public transport in London to not really notice where you are. I could go for days or possibly even weeks at a time without seeing any of the sights of London properly as I'd be on the tube or peering out from a bus window. Now I walk past and admire them pretty much everyday.
I've also discovered lots of areas that I didn't really know existed before and I now understand very well how all the different parts of London are laid out. It's easy, as a Londoner, to become used to thinking of London as laid out like the tube map, with no knowledge of where all the stations truly are in relation to one another. That's not me any more though. Now I can navigate my way through most of central London with very little need for referencing maps.
Along the way, I've discovered lovely leafy areas, so near to where I lived that it really surprised me that I'd never realised they were there. I'm convinced this must be the same for other people too and that there's so much out there waiting to be found.
4. Saving money
For me it's public transport, for you it might be a car, but whatever way you look at it, money is going to be saved if you walk a journey.
It's been a really important saving to me - about £100 a month at least I reckon. Even if none of the other reasons existed, this would be a pretty compelling one for walking more, but when you add this to all the other fantastic reasons you really have to ask yourself - why the hell wouldn't I walk more?!?!
5. It's a sociable, enjoyable exercise
Lots of people do choose to walk alone, and I do a lot of my walking on my own for that matter. However, what I like is that, of a weekend, The Boy and I can wander along with a destination in mind, talk and look at the sights. While we're doing this, we're getting some exercise, but we're usually enjoying the chat so much that the exercise factor is never really noticed.
I've started running recently, and I know for a fact that I couldn't talk and run at the same time. Running is challenging, and that's great, but I'll never love running the way I love walking. Walking is enjoyable and relaxing. Yes, it can be challenging if you choose to make it so (e.g. by climbing up a hill) but you can take your time and chat along the way, enjoying the sights and scenery.
It's great to be able to do something that I know is having positive effects on my health without it feeling like a chore or something to be ticked off because I know that I should do it. Instead it's something that I very much want to do.
I hope that's been some inspiration - as I said, there are lots of other reasons to love walking and I'm hoping that maybe people will have some more suggestions to add as comments, but that's all from me for now.