Look around the neighbourhood and you will see women walking. They are of all age, all colour and all denomination. Some dress in trendy Lulu Lemon lycra, some in the same black leggings they’ve had for years (that would be me) and others in flowing summer frocks with a pair of good walking shoes. Walking has become a ritual for many and although people think that walking became popular during the pandemic, and it definitely rose in popularity during the various lockdowns, women have been walking for generations.
Virginia, Sylvia and Jane
Virginia Woolf, the English writer, loved to walk, especially at night and even more so in winter. Sylvia Plath wrote about walking, although to be honest she wrote about a woman who walks out on her husband to wander the moors, before being ‘reigned’ back in! Jane Austen’s characters always walked. Remember Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice? She walked at a fast pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles. Elizabeth goes on a long walk with Mr Darcy where eventually they ‘match one another’s strides.’ Jane Austen herself was a big walker, her walking companion her sister, Cassandra Austen.
Meditation, philosophy, exercise
Walking is a meditation. It is about thinking, philosophy and adventure. Walking can be about romance, community, socialising, and of course and especially in today’s busy world, about exercise and mindfulness. There are many ways to walk and you need to find the way that is right for you. Walk slowly or speed walk if that is what you prefer. Walk alone with your thoughts or with a friend, chatting and sorting out the world’s problems. Walk with the dogs, the kids, or while listening to music or a podcast. And walk wherever and whenever you can, urban, suburban or rural.
Take the path and feel the health benefits
If there is a path, women will take it. And while they take it, they are gaining the benefits of walking, which are not just fabulously toned legs and a tight butt, although we will definitely take that as benefit number one. Walking briskly and regularly lowers one’s blood sugar and can lower cholesterol. Walking briskly reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. Walking briskly increases cardiovascular fitness, it helps with joint and muscular pain and it strengthens bones and improves one’s balance. A good walk before bed can help you sleep better. A good walk during the work day can help you think better. A good walk with a partner can strengthen a relationship. And a good walk is a great way to meet new people and feel like a real part of your community.
Walking, our bodies and our brains
Walking opens up a whole new part of your brain. A person who walks feel connected to the world, be it to other walkers, nature, the birds and the bees, or the urban landscape of a city. All the sensory systems are enhanced when you walk. You see hear and smell things that you do not see hear or smell when sitting at a desk. You have different thoughts which lead to clearer thoughts. Worries slip away and exhaustion somehow disappears. Walking is good for physical and mental health. And walking is gentle and easy on the body, which is important as one gets older.
A fantastic book you might want to read is Cheryl Strayed’s WILD. This is a memoir, an account of Cheryl’s 1100 mile hike, on her own, along The Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a story of hope, determination, tenacity, magnificence and nature. It’s ultimately a story about self discovery, but very much about walking too. In fact, we recommend you listen to it as an audio book as you - guess what - take a walk. And if you’re not a reader, look for the movie of the same name, starring the beautiful Reese Witherspoon who by the way is an avid walker too. Reese talks about how hard she had to train for the movie, and of course she did not stop walking thereafter. Look how fabulous she looks!
Advice for walking
What is our advice for walking? Start slowly, building up your strength as you go along. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes; it’s worth it. Always carry a bottle of water and a few snacks. Walk where it’s safe and be aware of your surroundings. Use an app to count your steps if that inspires you. Wear a hat, use good sunblock and take photographs along the way. Walk with a stick if you have knee or joint problems and walk with your core held in and your shoulders straight. Posture, girls, posture! Walk for fun, walk for your physical health and walk for your mental health too.