Do you walk for pleasure or only to get from A to B? Where do you go to walk – is it in the parks – walking on grass, sand or impacted soil and even with the possibility of breathing fresh air or do you walk on the hard pavements breathing in the polluted environment? Are you an all the year round walker or just on warm sunny days?
Yes I know – we are all told that we should walk for our health. A brisk walk will make us feel better, enhance our mood and of course benefit our bodies. Well that’s the theory – if only life was so simple but people don’t do activities in little boxes and only in single strands. Most people will do a mixture of walking in a mixture of environments particularly if dogs are involved.
Many of us don’t have a choice as to where we can walk particularly if still in employment, volunteering, grandparenting duties, caring – we walk because we have to get somewhere. Maybe we walk round the block from the office if we have been sitting all day. Sometimes to go on one of the guided walks around London is fascinating and although probably not brisk enough to do your body good, at least your mind will be getting exercise. But almost wherever you go around the streets you come up against the barriers – people cycling on pavements, children on scooters and skateboards and unfortunately there are few designated venues for people to skateboard. There are the waste bins – essential – often café seating, plants in big pots, advertising boards, cars parked on pavements in residential streets and overhanging bushes and plants from people’s gardens in more residential areas. These are particularly dangerous for people with sight problems. Getting a wet, prickly branch slapped into your face without warning is most unpleasant but there does appear to be a lack of awareness in residential areas.
The other big bain in the life of the walker is the constant building works, ramps and cones. And it is not just the visual environment which affects us – it is the noise of the environment. In London particularly you have planes, helicopters, emergency sirens, noisy lorries, car horns, building works, loud music from ‘trendy cars’ – you name it and we must not forget the so called ‘personal music players’ and the ‘personal mobile phones’ although we all know occasions when a whole conversation can be heard by the whole street.
Parks and green spaces can be much more relaxing although there can still be issues around noise. The ground is usually softer to walk on, the environment is more pleasing, unless it is a warm bank holiday – parks are often less crowded. If you go away from the main thoroughfare you can often find more secluded walks and space which moves you into thought. Do you use walking for thought; reflecting on your day, planning the tomorrow, retreat into your private world – your form of escape? Are you inspired by your walks whether in green spaces or the city? Does it enhance your mood? I suppose the acid test is always if you were not able to do any walking activity – would you miss it and if so – what would you miss?
You cannot fail to be aware that there are endless programmes to get us all to walk more from the days of your first steps to your tottering last steps but what will make you/encourage you to walk? Should it be a solitary activity or group although it is probable that it should be a mixture. Will it encourage thought and reflection or will it be a quick brisk walk with so much on your mind? We need to think as to how we can put a bit more walking into our lives but most importantly we have to make sure it is a pleasure and something to look forward to.
Let us know your favourite walks and why they are favourite.