All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Red and oranges become painted among our landscape and the morning mist cultivates views that are only for consumption this time of year. Autumn is many peoples favourite time of year, especially those of us that carry the pressure of summer - the constant feeling we should be doing things, making the most of the long days. Autumn, for me, is a big sigh of relief and guilt free early nights, making way for the beauty of the autumnal mornings.
This time of year is an optimal time to start a walking habit. Many of us have the best intentions to get out and about - whether it a dawn yoga class, an eye wateringly early spin class (that was me this morning folks - why?!) but the benefits of a humble walk can be largely underestimated.
One study of 334,000 people by researchers at the University of Cambridge showed that just one 20 min moderate-brisk walk per day can cut your risk of premature death by a whopping THIRD. There has also recently been some research in Canada where 38 adults who live with vascular cognitive impairment (which can cause dementia) were monitored over 6 months - the results showed those who took brisk strolls amounting to three hours a week displayed improvement in brain function.
I’m going to make a bold statement - I put at least 70% of my successful anxiety/depression management down to my morning walks with Monty. For the past 3 years we have walked for at least 40 minutes, 6 days a week before breakfast (even after spin classes!), with an exception of Monty tearing a paw pad open on a broken bottle left on the beach (pick your litter up, yo) and guess what? My journal entries through that second week strongly point to the old grey cloud creeping over - low moods, self doubt and feeling overwhelmed. While I listen to podcasts on the second walk of the day or share it with a friend or neighbour, I reserve mornings for collecting my thoughts, a bit of meditation (coming in the form of my Fitbit breathing guide on a bench or stone wall) and for giving myself a bit of peace for the day ahead.
Benefits of morning walking
That time each morning is a time to think over the day and also process any thoughts from the day before. But also, as well as being out in our environment, we are triggering all our happy hormones in our body and telling it to fire up our mitochondria (the cells responsible for making energy in our body). We get our circulation going and we are taking fresh, morning air into our lungs which is extremely detoxifying.
Have you ever hit your desk and resented being there feeling like you haven’t had any time for you? By fitting in a half an hour walk before you go about your day you are treating yourself to some time but also allowing some space to become more efficient and grateful about your day - owed to the sense of achievement.
If you can get into a good walking routine, you are likely to set a regular sleep pattern which has numerous benefits for our health and wellbeing.
How to motivate yourself
Set an alarm for a time that works for you and plan out your route the night before - having to make a decision on where to go might just be the thing that makes you feel unprepared and stops you from setting out. Setting the same wake up time for weekdays works wonders for me - I love this Lumie clock to get me out and about early doors. I used to think I was a ‘Night Owl’ but the benefits of getting up in the mornings massively outweighed the benefits of sitting watching Netflix until midnight. While writing this post I got some input from people in my work space - I was speaking to a mum while writing this post and she told me she runs at around 6.30am and is home for kids wake up at 7.30am and loves it as she feels like she has had her time before going into full school run mode. Then another person said they can’t get up earlier than 7am as they have a commitment until 10pm most evenings so they combine their commute and walk by diverting to the beach. It’s all about figuring what times/places work for you and committing to them.
Use an app like Strava or Map My Walk to log your walks and see how your timings improve while you get used to your routes. I love my Fitbit for logging my steps and seeing how my heart rate is more efficient with each repeat walk - plus the step goal makes me want to just go that little but further.
Like the idea of striding out with a pooch but don’t have one of your own? Sign up to Borrow My Doggy or ask a neighbour/friend if you can help with dog walks.
Not one for walking in silence? Get into a good podcast or audiobook - you’ll look forward to firing up your earphones and enjoying your latest episode/chapter.
It’s an obvious one but can you walk to work? Plot out the scenic route and stop seeing it as a commute and start seeing it as treasure time!
Formally Emma Gutteridge