This week, 16-20 May, is National Walk to School Week, part of a range of activities for National Walking Month. Typically, for us here in the Highlands of Scotland, this has coincided with grey and dismal weather, and in my case, two Minimen holed up at home with an unpleasant vomiting bug. The vomiting has held us back from participating this year, but normally, walking at least some of the journey to and from school is part of our daily routine. Walking is probably my favourite free time activity, and having a high energy dog who requires 1-2 hours of exercise daily, it’s also pretty much a compulsory element of my life. Whilst dog ownership might require you to get in the habit of daily walking, I really believe it’s something everyone should make time for – whether or not you have to keep up with Fido’s energy demands. Here’s just a few of the reasons why walking is good for you, the kids and the world in general:
IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR WELLBEING AS WELL AS YOUR HEALTH
I probably don’t need to tell anyone reading this that walking is good for you, but just in case you need a reminder, evidence shows that physical activity reduces the risk of a range of health conditions, whilst also enhancing mood, improving sleep quality, and reducing levels of anxiety and fatigue. From my own point of view, I don’t feel particularly energised for the day without a morning walk; and getting out in the fresh air for an hour or so in the early part of the morning does a lot more to wake me up than a cup of coffee ever would (and I do like coffee!)
IT’S GOOD FOR THE KIDS AS WELL AS MUM AND DAD
As for the kids, they too seem brighter and more ready to start their day after a ten minute stroll to school; and research has shown that walking the school run can improve performance, concentration and learning in pupils. Driving less is better for the environment too – and it certainly beats running the gauntlet of trying to find a parking space near the school gates!
Even if you don’t have a lot of time in the mornings – and I appreciate that many parents don’t – there can be ways to incorporate both a car journey and a walk into your morning routine. Our school’s Parent Council recently approached a nearby supermarket about using a quiet area of their car park as a ‘Park and Stride’ point for parents and carers around school drop off and pick up times. They were very happy to oblige with this – many companies are keen to help with community initiatives – and it has opened up the possibility of walking to a number of families who may not otherwise have had the time. In fact, this is the option our family uses most days on the school journey, and it only adds about an extra 10 minutes to our morning and afternoon routines. Certainly worth a try if you have a business with a car park that can be used safely anywhere within walking distance of your school!
IT GIVES YOU TIME TO TALK, LEARN AND ENJOY A BIT OF NATURE AND THE OUTDOORS
On the school run, I find the time spent walking gives myself and the kids a chance to catch up on anything that might have happened during the day, or to talk about things that might come up in the day ahead. It also allows us to practise and reinforce essential road safety skills that kids just don’t get the chance to learn when they are constantly being ferried around to school and clubs by car. Walking also gives us the opportunity to take note of things in our surroundings and point out anything interesting. In the last few months alone we’ve seen all manner of birds, butterflies, a hairy caterpillar, a lizard and even a grass snake while out walking as a family (admittedly though, not all of these have been on the way to school!).
Whenever possible on school run walks, we meet up with other Mums and kids who are walking in the same direction, which makes it much more fun for the younger ones and gives us Mums a chance to socialise for a few minutes too!
IT HELPS CREATIVITY, IDEAS AND DECISION MAKING
Aside from school run walks, I find that my solitary walks with Brody give me the best opportunity to think, clear my head, and come up with ideas or inspiration free from everyday distractions. The title for my blog came to me whilst out walking and most of my ideas for posts and other work projects have been generated in the same way. Research suggests I’m not alone – a 2014 Stanford study found that creative thinking improves whilst a person is walking, and indeed, the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was renowned for conducting his business meetings on foot. So it looks like walking might be good for business too!
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER?
Ah, the curse of that grey dismal weather I mentioned in paragraph one – it’s understandable that taking the car on days like these can often seem more appealing than getting soaked before you’ve even started out on your day. In a 2014 Scottish Government report, the weather was cited as the main barrier to walking more often by almost 50% of respondents. On the wildest of Highland winter days, even I don’t relish the prospect of walking too much, and keep my outings mainly to exercising Brody. But for the most part, I’m happy to don my waterproofs ( thermals too if required!) and brave the elements because I know I’ll feel so much better for it afterwards. The cliché about there being no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing, does have some truth. And for all the hours spent out in the rain and cold, there’s almost as many spent enjoying stunning sunsets, sunrises, and other glorious sights I might otherwise have missed out on. So why not pull on your walking boots and see where the mood takes you today?
References: The Scottish Government, 2014, ‘Let’s Get Scotland Walking’.