As we in the UK enter our second lockdown, I am revisiting some of the coping strategies I developed during the first lockdown. In addition to cooking more and doing micro workouts, I’ve returned to my daily walks with a vengeance.
Even if you’re not currently in lockdown, here are 5 reasons to keep walking as you age:
1.Walking spurs creativity. Research suggests a link between walking and creativity (There’s even a brainstorming technique called brainwalking. Can’t wait to try it!) But walking also teaches you how to be an observant student of other people. Writer and long-time public radio host Garrison Keillor once wrote that “A long walk also brings you into contact with the world…It isn’t about you and your feelings, so much as about what people wear and how they talk. The superficial is never to be overlooked.” Simply put, when you go outside you notice things. And, as the late, great Nora Ephron put it, “Everything is copy.”
2. Walking keeps your brain sharp. Walking also increases concentration and energy levels. One study suggested that walking three times a week over six months led to improved reaction times for those suffering from vascular dementia. Walking is also thought to have a positive effect on memory and problem-solving skills for children under 18.
3.Walking is good for your mental health. New research in the journal Emotion suggests that taking “awe walks” – i.e. walks that involve both physical vastness and novelty – can significantly boost positive emotions, especially among older adults. Participants in this study reported feeling more socially connected, more grateful, more compassionate, and more joyful. And this boost in “pro-social emotions” carried through into everyday life.
4. Walking lets you discover your neighborhood. My New Year’s Resolution to “walk without purpose” has borne fruit. During the first lockdown, I took long walks around parts of my neighborhood I’d never visited before. I discovered streets with names like “Malcolm X Way” and “Pablo Neruda Close.” I saw hand-made tributes to the British National Health Service (NHS) in people’s windows. I even found a new coffee joint and developed an adult crush on the 27 year old Russian-Canadian barista.
5. Walking gives you time for podcasts. As someone who came to podcasts belatedly, walking has been my friend. Because I don’t own a car – and because I’m not currently commuting – I now have more time than ever before to sample a range of podcasts. This is great for my newsletter – (I recommend one podcast a month) – and it’s great for me. I can stay across everything from US politics to new forms of storytelling to helpful writing tips. It’s been a huge boon to my life.
How about you? Do you walk more now? What does walking do for you?