This year, April 6th is National Walk to Work day.
It is well known that walking can greatly improve your health, as well as helping to reduce your carbon footprint. Walking can help burn calories, clear the mind, and get your heart rate up – all things which are stress-reducing, metabolism-improving, and general happiness-inducing. But as well as the health and environmental benefits of walking on a regular basis, there’s also often a time-saving factor as well.
I’ve enjoyed walking for as long as I can remember. However, it was during my university days that I developed an aim for walking to anywhere I need to go which is within about 3 miles from me.
3 miles can usually be walked within an hour (the average person walks at about 15-20 minutes per mile), and can be run in about half an hour if need be.
Usually, this means that, in a busy city or even in a rural area, over a 3 mile distance walking can be quicker than taking the gridlocked, traffic light filled roads (or windy, narrow country lanes if it’s rural!).
Not only does this save time and improve your health and wellbeing, but I’ve found that I get to know the area better as well. Through walking an area instead of driving it, I can often find shortcuts and footpaths that I would have otherwise missed.
And sometimes, these footpaths can be really beautiful and interesting places – even in the middle of a city.
Whilst at University, it often took me a 45 minute bus journey from my accommodation to my lectures. One day, the bus simply did not turn up, but I desperately needed to be in university that morning. So instead, I just set off walking. I was instantly surprised to find that the 2 miles that took the bus 45 minutes or more, only took me 30 minutes, and I loved the scenery and fresh air compared to the often damp and crowded bus.
After that day, I simply stopped taking the bus to university altogether. I found that my health and happiness quickly improved, I saved on costs (vital as a student!), and I was helping to reduce my carbon footprint. I was exploring the local area more and through that, was finding beautiful trails, whole new areas that I hadn’t noticed before, and countless shortcuts that I never would have found if I hadn’t been on foot.
This made giving (and receiving!) directions a lot easier, and also I found that my local knowledge quickly grew, which is only ever a useful - and often fascinating - thing to have.
This idea of being able to walk anywhere within 3 miles has stuck with me since then.
I turned up to my first job having just walked 4 miles in 55 minutes, since I couldn’t find a house anywhere closer to the office. I had to spend 2 minutes in the bathroom changing my shoes and fixing my hair, but I had arrived with a grin on my face and feeling ready to tackle anything that my first day could throw at me.
Now, I walk whenever I can. Rain or shine, whatever the season.
On my daily commute, I say hello to the lady who walks her greyhound called Maisie at precisely 6:50am every morning. I know the timing of the pedestrian crossing on the main road. I know that if I leave at 6:35am, I can be in the office by 7:10am, and I know that it will take me about 4,000 steps to do so. I know that along with helping to keep my health in check, I’m saving money on petrol and doing my bit for the environment.
And to enable me to do this, I haven’t needed to buy anything that I didn’t already have. Almost everyone owns a pair of trainers, and almost everyone owns a backpack. You don’t need anything else!
These days, I am lucky enough to have only a 2 mile commute to my workplace each way, which means I can easily walk the entire distance every day.
But for those with longer commutes, you can start off smaller. Try parking your vehicle further away from the office, or getting off the bus or train one stop earlier than normal. You can even try driving in to work in the morning, leaving your vehicle at work overnight, and walking home that evening instead. A good rest and sleeping well overnight will leave you fresh to walk the journey again the following morning, and driving your vehicle back home in the evening.
You’ll find quite quickly that not only do you feel better during the day and save on petrol (and sometimes time!), but you build up the stamina and energy to walk those distances quite quickly and easily. Another great thing about walking is that you can often easily extend your journey if you want to as well.
So on April 6th, National Walk to Work day, I encourage everyone to get outside and try walking some – if not all – of their commute.
If it rains, just take an umbrella. If it’s cold, take a coat (though I’m sure you’ll soon warm up from the walk!). If it’s sunny, enjoy the heat on your face. Listen to the birds, take notice of the trees.
It may just surprise you!