Physical activity has the potential to improve our mental health and well-being in a massive way. Even a brisk 10-minute walk increases energy and a positive mood. Here we will look at why walking can benefit mental health and also some of the best places to walk in the UK to increase activity levels and lower stress.
Mental Health Benefits of Walking
Walking is a great way to reduce stress and can improve overall mental health. It can help improve mood and provide an opportunity for reflection. Walking has been shown to be effective in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as increasing overall wellbeing.
Regular walking offers numerous mental health benefits. It can help clear your mind and boost creative thinking by providing time for contemplation away from everyday distractions. Additionally, it can reduce negative thoughts and feelings by allowing you to focus on the present moment rather than worrying about past or future events. Physically active people tend to have lower levels of anxiety and improved sleep quality which also contributes to better mental health.
Incorporating regular walks into your daily routine is an easy yet highly effective way to enhance your overall mental wellbeing.
Any type of exercise, including walking, is proven to boost mood. This is because exercise increases blood flow and circulation to the brain and body. This has a positive impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is responsible for the body’s stress response. As such, by walking and activating the HPA axis, you are literally reducing the stress you are feeling which boosts happiness and feelings of calm.
This is further increased if you walk with others as positive social interaction combined with exercise can improve self-esteem and negative moods, and ward off depression.
The Best UK Walks
Yorkshire Three Peaks
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a 24-mile round trip, including 5200ft of ascent, that is usually completed in under 12 hours. This is a great walk if you are wanting to push yourself and many people opt to do this walk for charity due to its challenging nature. You can do the challenge as part of an organized event or a self-organized group, both of which are great ways to meet people and increase the positive social interactions that are beneficial to your well-being.
The City of York
York has a huge range of walks with different terrain which are perfect if you are a local or able to hop on a train to York and visit for a day or two. Some of the most popular routes range in distance from 1.5 to 6.5 miles and are all accessible by public transport. The city itself is a very walkable city with gorgeous surroundings and history, making it a perfect location for exploring and ambling around with friends which can further boost your mental health and mood!
For a long walk over a few days, The Ridgeway is an 87-mile trip, following the oldest path in England starting from the World Heritage Site of Avebury. This walk can be made shorter, with one of the most popular routes being from Overton Hill to Sparsholt Firs covering 25 miles across 2 days. The walk allows you to experience archaeological monuments including Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age architecture as well as a range of nature reserves that you can stop at.
The Thames Path
If you don’t fancy walking across hills and countryside, then the Thames Path could be a great walk for you. To complete the whole walk you’ll need around two weeks, starting in Gloucestershire and following England’s best-known river. The walk can be enjoyed in its entirety, as a weekend break or even just an afternoon stroll by all ages and abilities due to its gentle nature.
Walking, or any kind of exercise, is highly beneficial to your mental health so getting active is one of the best ways to keep your mood up. Hopefully, you will have been inspired by some of the destinations mentioned and plan to visit one or more of them during 2023. Whether you go alone or with some loved ones, stay safe and have fun!