GetOutside Champion: Bel Dixon
“Bel, are you always grinning?!” “No. That’s mostly when I GetOutside.”
Spending time outside every day is a great way to boost our health and well-being. Going for a walk is an excellent way to not only break up the day, but to also do something positive to influence your mood. It is simply one of the best things we can choose to do for ourselves. But if you need an excuse, this week we celebrate “Walk to Work Day”.
Unlike many of my fellow GetOutside Champions who make their living from fun sounding hand on and outdoorsy work, I have an ordinary corporate job and work in an office sat at a computer from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. This means that finding time for outdoors adventures is pretty limited, and so I have recently started to commute on foot. And I have to say, it is wonderful. Most of the time.
For those of you who watch from car or train windows, I am now one of the brigade of people who don trainers or boots with their smart work wear and march my way to the office in the morning. My route is just shy of three miles each way, and while it does make me sweat a little more than it should, it is such a nice way to commute. The basic act of putting one foot in front of each other for an hour at each end of the day has proved wonderful in helping me collect my thoughts, get some exercise, and most importantly, breathe.
But why go to the effort? Surely there are more productive things I could do with two hours by driving my car or jumping on the bus? Actually I see this in a very childlike way; that time outside is my time. In the morning the walk is my opportunity to wake up, get my heart pumping and my lungs filled with fresh air. I start the day with some exercise and arrive at work ready to go – after a cup of tea, of course. In the evening I use the time to switch off from the day job and let go of the pressures of work. I arrive home relaxed and content, ready for my dinner and a nice evening doing something productive – or just nothing.
I don’t walk every day, it’s not always convenient (and sometimes I’d get drenched!). But it’s more doable than you might think when you make it the norm.
On 6th April, you are encouraged to join me and commute on foot for the day. Maybe it would be impossible for you to do walk the whole journey, but make an effort to walk at least half an hour of it, so you are getting One Hour Outside in total. If you take public transportation, try walking to a further stop before boarding, or getting off a stop early and waking the rest of the distance to work. If your commute is too long, make it a "walk at lunch day"; invite your colleagues to join you and explore something of the local area.
Walking for an hour a day reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Brisk walking as part of your work commute or lunch ensures you get moderate-intensity activity, and is incredibly beneficial to your mental wellbeing as well as physical health. And of course if you’re working towards Walk 1000 Miles, a walking commute will help you get there even quicker.
Make sure you are comfortable. If your work shoes aren’t made for walking, wear trainers and change into your smarts when you get into the office (I leave mine under my desk so I don’t have to carry them. You’ll need a waterproof coat, and use a backpack for your bits and bobs so you’re not lopsided from carrying a satchel or handbag on one shoulder.
OS Maps aren’t just for hill walking… take a look at the online maps and plan your route to work to make it as quick or as interesting as you like. I don’t walk the same way every day, that would be boring, and whichever way I go I make sure I find a bit of green space, a pond or even a muddy trail to give me something interesting to look at.
Walking is one of the most basic things we can do as a GetOutside activity. Don't dismiss it as the boring outdoors option, it's such a great way to spend time.
Join me and walk to work on 5th April; you never know you might just like it enough to do it every day next week...