One of our favorite family activities is walking. I suppose it isn’t surprising, given that I am a race walker, but just going for a walk is a whole different experience. Getting outside and getting moving allows us to connect with each other as a family as well as with friends we bring along. We have some of the best conversations and make some of the best memories on our walks. Sometimes it is just a walk around the neighborhood, but often we will load up the kids and whoever else we can convince to join us and head out for a hike. The beauty of nature (and mud, and sand, and waves) added to a walk seems to make it even better. Of course it helps that we live in a beautiful place to hike, one of the best in the US in my somewhat biased opinion.
The beauty of the Oregon coast is something that I can’t get enough of. I call it “beach therapy”, it seems at least once a week I need to go for a good beach hike for a mental health break. Being outdoors in general is healing for the mind, and hiking especially has been known to calm me down, cheer me up, or bring clarity to my troubles. I am so much more prepared to take on life after a good walk on the beach or in the dunes. There is lots of research that supports the mental health benefits of walking, not only for depression and anxiety, but also for stress reduction and getting a healthy night’s rest. Walking can feel so good.
Aside from the mental health benefits, there are countless physical ailments that can be improved or even cured by regular walking. Walking has been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve control of blood sugars, increase bone mineral density, improve circulation, and decrease risk of a heart attack or a stroke. It helps with weight management and having a healthy appetite. Walking improves back pain and pain from fibromyalgia. If the sun is out, walking can even raise your Vitamin D levels.
So what do you need to get started? All you really need is a good pair of shoes, or hiking boots if you are going to be out on the trails. (My favorite shoes for walking around town are Reshod walking shoes.) Take some water if you plan to walk for more than 20-30 minutes. Think about the weather and if you might need a jacket or rain coat (always in Oregon!). With the kids, we usually throw in a snack if we are going for more than a couple miles, mostly because it can be a good motivator when they get tired.
I can be as simple as parking your car a few rows further away from where you are going, even a change that small can make a difference in how you feel. Invite a friend, get out, and get walking!