Walking my way to wellness this autumn
Autumn is one of my favourite seasons for walking. Here I reveal some of the reasons why I get outdoors for a walk as much as I can. They include:
- Loving the colours of autumn
- The benefits of daylight
- Bonus of being naturally healthy
- To meet with friends
- To listen and learn
- To walk and call
- To meet new goal.
Walking in my new comfortable wellies
I have also been enjoying local walks in my FitFlop WonderWelly boots. The wellies are said to be the most comfortable in the world. There are short and tall WonderWelly boots for women in a range of colours.
If you are going to walk, especially in autumn and winter, then you need comfortable and waterproof footwear. To be honest, I was keen to try the FitFlop WonderWelly boots because I have spent years wearing FitFlop shoes and FitFlop slippers. When I heard they had designed a welly with the same comfort levels in the soles, I wanted to try a pair.
Because I have a long foot, a size UK8, and slim calves, I was worried the boots would look and feel too loose but they are fine. There is an adjuster buckle to make the calf a little slimmer.
The WonderWelly has:
- A contoured sole for more even weight distribution.
- A honeycomb heel design to absorb impact.
- A springy forefoot to help with “push off”.
These are a much more sophisticated style of women’s wellies than the pairs I have owned before and make walking on pavements, trails and paths a delight. The tall wellies are £90 and the shorter version is £75.
Loving the colours
I love to see the countryside resplendent in a bright autumnal palette of reds, oranges and yellows. The tree colours are the best, but I also love the russets, greens and browns of moorlands and heathers at this time of year, especially if they are contrasted against a blanket of high snow.
The benefits of daylight
There is another reason why I aim to go out for a walk as often as I can at this time of year. As the days shorten, especially after the clocks go back, I know I need to spend time in daylight and surrounded by nature for the benefit of my health.
Walking is good not just for physical wellbeing but for my mental wellness, too. Medical experts are not entirely sure why some people feel low during the darker months, but it’s widely believed that a lack of light plays a major part.
The concept is known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I am prone to SAD. First described in 1984 by a leading American medical researcher, Norman Rosenthal, and the author of Winter Blues, SAD is regarded as a kind of depression and has many of the same symptoms including loss of energy, change in appetite, tendency to oversleep, difficulty concentrating and irritability.
For those with mild cases of SAD, medics state that 30 minutes of exercise in the morning sun may be all that is needed to keep the winter blues at bay. If you can get outdoors and walk for longer in the hours of daylight, all the better.
Bonus of being naturally healthy
Further research shows that spending time amid nature, especially surrounded by greenery and trees, offers a further boost to wellness.
There are several studies, such as one carried out by the University of Hong Kong and published in The Lancet Planetary Health in 2018. It showed that spending time in green spaces impacts positively on mental wellbeing.
In Japan, too, shrinrin-yoku – or “forest bathing” – has been part of its national public health programme since the early 1980s. It literally means “taking in the forest atmosphere” and the purpose is to simply immerse and reconnect with nature.
The NHS in the UK has also recently introduced “green prescriptions” as a means to get people moving and to support physical and mental wellbeing. In 2016, a report undertaken by Natural England and the mental health charity Mind focused on three main green care initiatives to help support people struggling with mental health issues
I am lucky because I have plenty of countryside walking routes on my doorstep. I make a point of getting outdoors every day – usually with Wispa the Wonder Whippet – for a short local walk or a longer hillier walk.
To meet with friends
As summer turns to autumn and autumn turns to winter, it can be all too easy to go into hibernation mode. I work from home and if I hibernate this means I hardly see anyone.
I know that spending time with friends is good for my mental health and so I try to arrange for a couple of walks each week with a friend. We walk and talk and put the world to rights and I always return home feeling refreshed and upbeat.
Listen and learn
I have found a new love this year: Audio books. I enjoy walking and listening to a new book. While there are times when I appreciate a walk with no other sounds than those of the nature around me, when it’s a more routine walk in nearby streets and parks, an audio book is a great way to pass the time and multi-task.
I find myself looking for excuses to walk, just so I can switch on my latest book, or when I am out on my walk, I’ll walk more miles so I can listen to more of the book.
Walk and call
My family will often ask, when I call them: “Is that you out on a walk again?” This is because I also use my walking time to chat to my mum, daughter or husband on the phone. I have headphones that have a Bluetooth connection to my phone and I find it is a wonderful use of time to walk the dog while also catching up on how other people are doing.
To meet new goals
Another great motivator for walking at this time of year – and pretty much all year round actually – is to reach new goals in my lists of mountain summits. I have just 25 of the 282 Munros in Scotland left to bag. Munros are Scottish mountains with a height of more than 3000ft.
Now I am ticking off Corbetts (Scottish mountains with a summit of between 2500ft and 3000ft) and also a few smaller mountains known as Grahams and Donalds.
Walking goals in the winter help to motivate me to go outdoors, benefit from fresh air and great views and to walk with friends.
So, you can see how walking keeps me sane and how it has become my go-to activity for physical and mental wellbeing.
Many thanks to Matt Hunter of HunterFit in Bearsden for taking the photographs.
- Note that this post was written in association with FitFlop and while I have used my own words and thoughts I have included links to the FitFlop website for readers’ reference.