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Walking to clear the mind

Walking is an unassuming workout. The benefits of a brisk stroll are often overlooked in favour of the more attention-grabbing fitness trends such as, hot yoga, Pilates, yogalates, cross fit.

A good walk can do wonders at the end of a long, stressful and tiring day. Being active improves:

  • mental health and wellbeing,
  • self-perception and self-esteem,
  • mood and sleep quality,
  • stress levels, anxiety and fatigue.

Walking offers many of the same benefits to your body, though, and even more for your mind because a journey on foot is a mind-body integrative activity. That means that your legs move and the repetitive, almost subconscious, action allows your mind to wander…

…lonely as a cloud. Wordsworth understood that being forced to focus on quick-passing logistical realities – such as stepping over uneven ground – freed up his brain from background worries, such as how much he’d spent on tallow that month, and would it be covered by his earnings from his latest poem.

As soon as your brain starts moving, it enters new territory where there’s no time for the tedious questions of everyday life. Eventually, once your brain has adjusted to the new rhythms of step, step, glide (as with skating, at which Wordsworth was said to be proficient), or step, step, push-up-with-knee (as on a mountain), your brain drifts off again into its own imagined terrains. By this time, your brain’s already forgotten what it was doing, thinking or worrying about when you stepped out the door.

Like a needle on a record, walking has lifted it off its original track, and your brain is free to land along a new groove of its own choosing. Wordsworth famously used this trick to his poetic advantage, walking himself into a creative state every day before sitting down to write. You can walk yourself into a calmer, happier state in just the same day.