In step…

In her column for June qualified hypnotherapist Karen Martin reveals the benefits of walking therapy…


Nobody went to the gym a hundred years ago because most of us stayed fit by walking everywhere. The arrival of the motor vehicle outside every house in the land put paid to that. For many, a short walk to the bus stop would now be a stretch.

But not only does walking keep us fit, there is significant evidence of a number of psychological benefits. Walking keeps the mind healthy and focused by reducing stress hormone cortisol and stimulating endorphins, a mood enhancing neurotransmitter. It also increases blood flow to the oxygen hungry brain, reducing the risk of degenerative diseases like dementia.


Making Tracks

With the advent of fitness trackers, setting a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day has become a benchmark for good health and wellbeing. This is an arbitrary figure which is supported by research demonstrating that being more physically active in general increases quality of life and life expectancy.

Research cited by Harvard Medical School reports that walking is as effective as drugs for treating anxiety depression. Studies also reveal how just a 20-minute stroll every day relieves stress and helps us sleep better.

There are many different ways to increase footfall in daily life and all of them will contribute toward the benefits of being more active:


  • Walking the dog a bit further, faster and for longer makes for a happy hound and makes breathing fresh air in the great outdoors a part of daily life
  • Changing shopping and other routines so you’re parking further away from supermarkets, walking short distances instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
  • Meeting friends for a country walk instead of coffee and a cake
  • Joining an organised group of ramblers or hikers on regular walks
  • Taking up a sport which involves walking
  • Choosing holiday destinations where there are interesting places to walk
  • Taking a stroll around historic National Trust properties and gardens


See the Sights

We live in an area of glorious countryside and scenic coastlines to explore. The website Fancy Free Walks signposts the vast choice of free and easy, or not so easy, walks through town and country, London and beyond. It would take millions of steps to cover all these routes.

A favourite way of spending a Sunday is a country walk with a pub at the end of it. At least it’s possible to feel a bit virtuous when tucking into a roast followed by sticky toffee pudding. And we are somewhat spoiled for choice with some great hostelries that are never more than a country mile from a scenic footpath. If you want to make a day of it, the South Downs Way National Trail stretches 100 miles from Winchester at the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire to Eastbourne on the East Sussex coast.

Following old routes along the chalk escarpment and ridges of the South Downs, this historic trail is littered with folklore of dragons, fairies, ogres and the wrath of the devil. If you want to be entertained with tales of bottomless pools and ancient settlements, Kathryn Burrington of the Sussex Walks blog passes the time so you barely notice the distance covered.


Hit your Stride

Walking is a humdrum everyday thing for those of us fortunate enough to be physically fit enough to do it. It can be a joyfully pointless pastime with the added benefit of breathing fresh air and enjoying beautiful surroundings. Those with sedentary lifestyles barely notice the passing of the seasons or the decline in mood and energy that is the inevitable outcome of not moving around much.

Walking ticks so many therapeutic boxes. When you hit your stride, the rhythm of walking is hypnotic, allowing time for mindful reflection and processing information so the stresses of daily life can be relieved. A medication free way of rebalancing hormones and stimulating mind and body, putting one foot in front of the other is proven to reduce anxiety and depression.

During the warmer months when the days are longer, take the time to take a walk outside and step into a healthier state of mind and body.

Whether you manage 10,000 daily steps or not, you’ll be striding towards a happier, calmer, more harmonious way of life.

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