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Why walking works: The everyday exercise with extraordinary benefits

Walking. Most of us do it everyday. Whether it’s to the car, to your workplace, or down to the local shops, walking has benefits beyond getting you from A to B. As we gear up for our first ever CALM event, we’re looking at some of the lesser known perks of taking a stroll.

Hiking, ambling, wandering or roaming, it’s proven to be good for both our mental and our physical health - helping to prevent illness, give us much needed headspace, and even to meet and socialise with others. While walking is often overlooked in favour of ‘proper’ exercise, research is mounting that a brisk walk provides just as many health benefits.

Walking is free, accessible and you can do it anywhere - that’s why 9.3 million adults in England alone opt for walking over swimming cycling or heading to the gym, pulling on their walking boots for at least 30 minutes once a month, and it’s why our first ever CALM event, The Lost Hours Walk, is a walk - an activity that almost everyone can get behind and enjoy.

Training doesn’t have to be intense. We’ve all heard the ‘get off the bus a stop earlier’ advice, but we think you can make it a whole lot more interesting. New album you want to give a test drive? Pop those headphones on and walk it out. Grab a coffee on your lunch break? Walk a little further to that bougie coffee shop you love for your caffeine fix. Heading for a long ole’ trek in the countryside? Take the weight off with a bevvy and a slice of cake at a pub or cafe en route.

There’s no need for new kit either, (unless you really want that new pair of kicks…), just wear what’s comfy and you’re all set. CALM Challenge Coach Ollie McCarthy sums it up: “With walking there are less barriers to entry. You can kind of just build into your life.”

The benefits of physical activity aside, walking can improve mental wellbeing. You can use it to wind down, reflect on a tough day, to find headspace, discover new places, or reach new goals. There’s also increasing interest in the relationship between our brains and walking - the mental benefits of which is something that more and more people are advocating. Shane O’Mara, psychologist and author of In Praise of Walking, described the activity as a ‘superpower’ in an interview with The Guardian

He said: “One of the great overlooked superpowers we have is that, when we get up and walk, our senses are sharpened. Rhythms that would previously be quiet suddenly come to life, and the way our brain interacts with our body changes.”

Taking a stroll doesn’t have to be solo activity either - it’s a perfect way to have a natter with a mate, or even meet new ones. As research begins to explore the relationship between walking and mental wellbeing, walking meetings and even walking therapy are becoming more popular. Recent studies have shown that walking can even improve creative input by up to 60% - great news if you need a dose of inspiration.

CALM Coach Ollie explains why he thinks walking and talking are a formidable duo: “You can actually approach subjects and have difficult conversations more easily than if you were to sit down at a table and just look at each other and have a conversation. What I’ve found is that often if you're having a conversation, then actually, because of the lack of eye contact, because you're both moving in the same direction but you're not having a confrontational face to face chat, it is easier.”

That’s why, as well as the Lost Hours Walk this October, we created the Walking Collective - The CALM Walk Collective is a group for walkers of every age, shape, and ability. It’s less about the fastest time and new gear, and more about a shared passion, and using exercise to look after yourself, and each other. It’s a community for training tips, inspiration, motivation and shared stories. Find out more and sign up here.