Welcome to July’s story from Fresh member Niamh Foley!!
I am not the most active of people.
In fact, I’m a little bit like a hedgehog – in that I curl up into a little ball during the cold, wet winter months; and only slowly start to reembrace the world, as it warms during the spring months.
However, walking is one of the few activities that I practice the full year around. For me, it has become a form of active meditation – put one foot in front of the other and repeat. It is one of the tools that I use to help me reduce stress and mindfully engage with the natural world and has so much become part of my daily routine that I rarely miss a day – regardless of the weather.
Walking is free and doesn’t require any fancy equipment or clothing. Most importantly for me, walking doesn’t have a competitive element to it. Whether I’m out for a short slow stroll, or am pounding the pavement to the beat of a favourite song, I get to set my own pace.
I am also privileged to live in an area that so celebrates green spaces – canals, rivers, parks and reservoirs make it easy to go for a wander in beautiful surroundings. However, when pressed for time, I will pop out for a three minute turn around the road that I live and have even managed to make walking down the road at head office into a mini-adventure.
The New York Times reports that low impact aerobic exercises – like walking – prevents early onset-dementia; reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and improves overall mental health. In addition, mental stress is reduced, while the body maintains a higher level of endorphins.
Given that I have a family history of both dementia and Alzheimer’s – I like to think that walking allows me to positively fight for my mental good health in the future.
Harvard Health has also promoted walking for ‘heart health’…which covers the other side of my family history.
Over the last few months, I’ve even introduced a social element and have taken a turn with friends and have one in particular that I go out for longer planned walks. However, it turns out that Leeds is much more social than I am and there are a number of walking groups; rambling associations and ‘take a hike’ programs in place, for a variety of age groups.
I very much like the attached image because it allows me to set realistic health based goals for myself. Every day I aim to walk for between 3-30 minutes, with longer walks (up to 90 minutes) twice a week – usually over the weekend. However, I never judge or blame myself if I don’t achieve the longer walks. After all, more is best but something is better than nothing.
Niamh Foley – Fresh member