Apparently not everyone likes walking. That's obvious isn't it? It just hadn't occurred to me for a while, but suddenly it was coming at me from all directions. Maybe it was when the rain started and some of my colleagues expressed dismay at having to go outside, or maybe I was just being a bit too passionate about the benefits of going for a walk. There are of course many barriers to being able to easily go for a walk - physical, mental and indeed metal barriers. For both walkers and wheelers then a situation like the one in the picture is enough to make you turn round and go home. Plenty of other things might stop you too - the fear of the unknown, of who or what you might encounter. For a great essay on this subject check out Garnette Cadogan on the realities of being black in America which echoes some elements of the fear of being a woman walking alone.
Despite the barriers 68% of the UK population claim to walk for at least 20 minutes each day for exercise or leisure according to Paths for All. Their tweet about this linked to Walkipedia - a resource for all things walking, active travel and of course, connecting to nature. Paths for All have also just introduced another wonderful idea for encouraging people to walk - the Walking & Wellbeing Award It's for anyone who already walks or wheels or for those who want to do more of it, and it's a way to learn more about how walking and wheeling can help you, other people and the natural world. There are four different themes, so you can choose what interests you most. I'll be signing up for the Walking with Nature award - anyone else want to join me?
I visited my friend's bookshop at the weekend and was delighted to discover I had all but one of the books on the walking shelf so it seemed rude not to buy it. The book is 52 Ways to Walk by Annabel Streets and I'd had it reserved from the library for months. I see now why it hasn't been returned! The subtitle is "The surprising science of walking for wellness and joy, one week at a time" and I suspect the person is keeping it until they have walked all of the 52 ways. I salute her for coming up with 52 different ideas. Back in 2021 during #Walktober we came up with 31 prompts to get people outside and I have to admit we were struggling towards the end of the month, yet this book introduces ideas that I've not come across before. I started dipping into the text at random points.
One particular chapter leapt out as me as I leafed through - Walk like a Nomad. I imagined that it would be about walking long distances. Whilst it does relate to that, it's not the whole story. When I read the phrase "afghan walking" I immediately imagined myself cutting about the southside of Glasgow looking glamorous with an afghan hound with flowing locks. The first result on an internet search revealed that I wasn't the only one with this train of thought, but the article goes on to touch on the benefits of conscious breathing whilst walking, with positive feedback from those who have put it into action. The idea comes from the work of a researcher, Edouard Stiegler and his observations of Afghan nomads, who he discovered were covering distances of 700km in 12 days without tiring, through efficient use of their bodies and breath. I've also seen this way of walking described as regenerative, meditative and energising. Who doesn't want some of this in their life?
I had a crisis of confidence with regard to walking recently. An article in The Guardian made me consider whether I need to learn to walk better. To compound this, the second chapter in 52 Ways is about improving your gait and cites research that suggests cognitive impairment is visible in the way we walk from an alarmingly young age. Unsurprisingly both sources point to Joanna Hall, a sports scientist who developed the WalkActive programme to help people walk better. "Peel your heel" has become a catch phrase on my walks as I try to remember to use my whole foot rather than just slapping my sole down on the pavement. I'm also pretty sure I need to swing my arms a bit more too. Thinking of all these things whilst trying to walk turns a skill you thought you had mastered as a wean into an art, reminding me of a colleague who signed up for a nordic walking session only to discover that coordinating her arms and legs wasn't as simple as she'd previously believed.
Maybe we have to admit that not everyone will want (or be able to) walk and be innovative with the ways we encourage people to connect with nature and get some of the benefits of walking. The Hornstrandir Film Festival in the north of Iceland might be one of those ways. From the comfort of your own home over a few days in September, you can enjoy the premieres of films covering issues such as nature, the environment and wildlife. We found out about this through Libby DeLana's newsletter, as she'll be in Iceland walking to some of the remote venues for the festival. The founder of This Morning Walk and author of another fabulous book on walking Do/Walk, she encourages walking as a daily morning practice which we also heartily recommend.
I'm not sure any of these ideas will ultimately get my walk-avoidant colleagues out the door, but it's a step in the right direction. (Geddit?)