“Three in four people said that walking has helped their physical and mental health already this year, according to a new survey.”
There’s nothing new here to those of us who walk or have read about the effects of walking on bodily and mental health, but it’s always good to have your views reinforced by others. Solvitur ambulando!
By George Styllis and Catherine Lough
First published in the Daily Telegraph
People may have abandoned many of the habits foisted on them during the Covid lockdowns, whether it was mask-wearing or elbow bumping, but walking isn’t one of them.
For two years a walk was one of the only forms of exercise available to people, as Covid restrictions kept businesses such as gyms closed and cars off the road.
But after millions opted to stroll more during the pandemic as one of the few available pastimes while restrictions remained in place, three in four people have said that walking has helped their physical and mental health this year, according to a new survey.
The study by retailer GO Outdoors and mental health charity Mind also found that 65 per cent believed this was a legacy of the pandemic. Prior to Covid, more than half of people (55 per cent) simply saw walking as a means to get from A to B.
The survey of 2,012 adults also showed that three-quarters of people now find walking to be their most preferred form of exercise because it has no financial barriers (75 per cent), is good for their mental health (74 per cent) and is inclusive (73 per cent).
Walking in nature has been shown to have positive effects for both physical and mental wellbeing. Andrew Lee, director of Countryside Policy and Management at the South Downs National Park Authority, said that for many: “The lockdowns provided an opportunity to experience the joys and benefit of walking in nature for the first time”.
Haroon Mota, who founded the walking group Muslim Hikers during the pandemic, said he did so to address rising loneliness.
“During the global pandemic, I enjoyed going out for a hike or walk as a way to get some fresh air and to destress but I found it strange that, despite living in a diverse city (Coventry), there weren’t many people that looked like me doing the same,” he told Parkrun.com.
“That’s why, at a time when lots of people were becoming increasingly lonely, I set up an online community with the aim of inspiring and empowering more ethnic minorities to enjoy the outdoors together.”
“I’ve found that some people just won’t go outside on their own and lots of people are motivated by the community side of what we do, which again is so similar to parkrun.”
The latest data from the capital shows that Londoners are more likely to walk since the pandemic.
Before Covid, around 35 per cent of journeys in London were made on foot, whereas the latest quarter of available data, from April to September 2022, showed that 41 per cent of journeys were now made on foot, and that the number of walking journeys made per person per day during the same period was 11 per cent higher than the 2019-20 pre-pandemic average.
Last year, Fitness app Strava found that the number of users worldwide uploading information about their hiking routes had tripled since the pandemic and launched a feature, “Trail routes”, in response to the phenomenon. The UK’s most popular hikes, according to the app, are Ben Nevis, the Llanberis path to Snowdon in Wales, and Pen-y-Ghent, the smallest of Yorkshire’s three peaks.