Human beings are created to be active social creatures. Yet in our western society ill health through inactivity and loneliness with its associated psychological effects is somewhat endemic. This is not restricted to any one age group either, we hear of problems of obesity in some of our youngest children, and chronic loneliness effecting a wide age range from teenagers to members of the grey generation. Our lifestyle can so easily take us in completely the opposite direction to that in which were designed to flourish.
I want to suggest that for some people walking groups can be the antidote to the these problems. It is not for everyone, but for most of us, if we are physically capable and willing to make the effort we will be surprised how beneficial it can be.
I have already written about the benefits of walking but here are three reasons why walking regularly with a group is really good for us and helps to bring us back to where we belong.
1. Regularly meeting with the same people
“Feeling lonely in a crowd” is a well known saying that has a stinging truth to it. Finding the solution to loneliness is not just about being with people, in many crowded pubs you will find the lonely man sitting in the corner staring at his pint. It is about regularly interacting with the same people. It takes time to build up a reasonable level of trust with anyone so that you feel confident to talk about things that matter to you.
Being part of a regular walking group means that we meet up with same people. This enables the building of relationships with some of them which is so important for most of us. Walking through the countryside is a very natural way to get to know someone and as the miles roll by I think it is an easier way to build a friendship of mutual understanding. Gaining trust in one another, being able to be yourself and talk about things that really matter helps us so much to gain that sense of well being and self worth.
The gentle rhythm of walking helps us to relax and conversation with some one we have learned to basically trust helps us to get life back into a good perspective it also helps us to work through some of life’s problems. I have often felt so much better after a good walk and talk.
2. It gets us out of our own little world.
Another well known saying is “not being able to see the wood for the trees”. It is so easy in every day life to get stuck in our own little worlds, walking through life with blinkers on. This can’t be good for our mental health and it seems that too much self preoccupation is the cause of depression for some.
To be part of a successful walking group we have to be actively interested in, and engage in, each others worlds. To make the effort to be interested and care about some one else is a great tonic and I have found it to be a source of better mental health. I am not necessarily talking about knowing all their problems and cares, but simply discovering their everyday life, what matters to them or their life history takes us into another world than our own. Sometimes this can help us to get our own lives into a better perspective.
3. Its Cheaper and more interesting than the gym
The cost of walking obviously depends upon where you choose to walk. If we decide to walk somewhere miles away, it will cost. There is no reason though why a group of you cannot walk somewhere local, it is not always about the scenery it is about the exercise and human interaction.
Personally I find the gym intensely boring, mindlessly burning up calories as I struggle to go nowhere. Made better perhaps if I listen to music or watch a video. But then I find myself bombarded with media which takes me even more deeply into my own world where there is no human interaction.
Give me fresh air and real trees, fields, birds and clouds any day. To breath fresh air and feel the wind has got to be better than breathing the stale air of a sweaty gym.
Why not join a group?
When I am out on my walks I often cross paths with a walking group, they are always friendly and happy to tell you how good it is to be out and about in the countryside together. Most groups I meet are mainly full of those of a retirement age I suppose they have the time in the middle of the week. I have though met groups of a younger age which is always encouraging.
I have hooked up with a walking group myself recently, admittedly I have only managed two walks with them so far due to my busy life. They have been great experiences though, all the members of the group were very friendly and willing to chat which seemed to make the miles fly by.
There are lots of walking groups all over the country and they are usually easy to find online. The Rambling Association is a good place to start your search if you are interested. Staying healthy physically and mentally is a big issue in our society today and I can think of no better way to keep ourselves in a good state than walking and talking – so why not try it?