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Get walking for Mental Health Awareness Week.

Published on 11 May 2021 10:02 AM

When was the last time you went out on a walk? How did it make you feel?

According to a recent study, more than 40% of people say nature, wildlife and visiting local green spaces have been even more important to their wellbeing since the coronavirus restrictions began[1]. In times of stress, heading out for a walk in our local green space can help us to feel calmer and more grounded.

It’s no surprise then that the Mental Health Foundation, the organisation that run Mental Health Awareness Week from 10th – 16th May, is basing this year’s awareness week around the theme of nature and getting outdoors – perfect timing for Bristol Walk Fest which kicked off on 1st May! Age UK Bristol is encouraging everyone to get outside for some fresh air and exercise, especially people over 55.

Getting outdoors into nature doesn’t have to mean walking for miles and miles every day, although if that’s what you enjoy, go for it! It could also mean taking part in a regular activity like walking football (you can find out more about this activity on our website), or it could mean a gentle walk to your local park, or even just to the bottom of the garden if you have one. 

For those that may struggle with getting out and about we’ve collated a couple of top tips on how to incorporate more walking into your daily life:

  • If you spend a lot of time sitting, start small. Start with seated exercises, stretch your chest, try out a hip march and practice getting up and out of your seat in a controlled manner. You can add tiny bits of extra activity into your daily life, e.g. while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, walk around the room and gradually increase how much walking you do. 
  • Consider getting a step counter and challenge yourself to a set amount of steps every day. These could be completed inside (if the weather is as bad as it has been recently!) or outdoors.
  • Incorporate walking into your routine. If you need something from the shops, why not walk instead of driving or taking the bus? If your destination is further away, consider driving part of the way there and walking the last section. 
  • Get motivated to walk and invite a friend or family member to go with you. Or, if this isn’t possible, chat to someone over the phone while you walk.
  • Practice mindfulness as you walk. Focus on your favourite part of the walk, is it the birdsong that you can hear, or the fresh feeling of the wind tugging at your jacket that you enjoy the most? Spend time as you walk really focusing on the sensations and experience. 
  • Make a plan. Pick your destination and work out the route you’re going to take. Many people enjoy the anticipation of a trip out but it's also very practical to take the time to consider things like what you want to take with you for refreshments, and whether there are any public toilets in the vicinity of your walk. If you have a smartphone, consider downloading the Go Jauntly walking app to view a variety of free walking routes across Bristol.

Whatever you do, take it at your own pace and enjoy your time outdoors this May.

To find out more about this year’s Bristol Walk Fest, visit the website: www.bristolwalkfest.com

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56889322