Why Walking is the Best Medicine

I realise how much my life has changed over the last four years, when I become over the

top, peein mypants excited about a pair of walking boots.


They are tan leather, clunky, unflatteringly wide fitting, and for the next two weeks, under the guise of ‘breaking them in’, I wear them everywhere 

 I don’t need to.  

 The are perfect fit from the start, the glass slipper to my Cinderella feet. 

 just don’t want to take them off. I like staring at them, wondering what kind of adventures await the two of us. 

 Once upon a time, in a life before, this would never have happened.  

 Yes, I have always enjoyed walking, but a pair of trainers or ‘normal’ boots would suffice. Once I even hiked up the Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds in flip flops, although I certainly would not recommend this. The toe blisters were horrendous.  

 No, I have always liked a nice stroll, but ‘hiking’ is not something I would ever have listed on the hobbies section of my CV. 

 Now I consider it not just a hobby, but sometimes a necessityLike many, I suffer from the occasional bouts of anxiety, and the complete disaster that was 2020 has exacerbated them to the point where often I am a kettle at constant boiling point. 

climbing a hill

And for me walking is the greatest release.  

Up hill, down dale or even just down the road and back, it is a chance for me to look at something other than the constant stream of bad news filling up my iPhone. 

It was the Greek physician Hippocrates (c.460 – c.370 BC)who first recognised the health benefits of taking a stroll, declaring that “walking is man’s best medicine”.  

When walking the Camino de Santiago back in 2018, I realised that the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other each day is soothing to the mind. Keep doing that and you’ll get to wherever you need to go. Even if it takes a while. Even when your feet are aching, and you feel like you cant carry on. Just one foot in front of the other.  

When times are tough, it is a mantra that I ofterepeat.  

Keep going. You’ll get there. Just one foot in front of the other.  


GPs have long recognised the benefits of outdoor activity on not just physical but mental health 

‘Green prescribing’, the notion of using nature based activities and exercises as an alternative or alongside traditional medications, first began in New Zealand in the late 90s. There are many activities that can be ‘prescribed’ including gardening, or conservation work, but walking is one of the easiest andin my opinion, effective ways guaranteed to instantly lift your mental well being.  

After returning from a horrendous trip to Vietnam in 2019, to find our beloved van and belongings, effectively our life stolen, much of the aftermath is a little fuzzy around the ages. I remember a  feeling of drowning, one we hadn’t felt since 2016, except this time we were struggling to keep afloat. Our only lifeline, or home on wheels, had been stolen from us and this time we were sinking.  

So we went to the one place we knew would make us feel safe again.  

The Lake District.

The place where we fell in love, got married and took our beloved Murray for one last swim before saying goodbye.  

For one week we did nothing but walk the hillsOne foot in front of the other again. Just keep going. You’ll get there. 

I can recommend the  top of Loughrigg Fell as a great place to stand and howl at the moon, or in my case scream into the windUp there the world and all its problems felt a lot smaller. We returned from that trip, not healed, but better. And sometimes that’s all you can ask for. Just a bit better. Day by day. Keep going. 

It would seem that the UK government is now catching up to the health benefits of outdoor exercise, announcing in July 2020, a £4 million pilot scheme for ‘green prescribing. The cross government project is aimed at ‘tackling mental ill health through green social prescribing’. The case for change is related to the increasing mental health crisis in the UK, which has been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic. While initially the project is only taking place across four locations, it is hoped that if successful, it will be rolled out nationally.  

It is the first time that formal ‘green prescriptions’ will be handed out in the UK, although NHS Shetland has been prescribing ‘nature prescriptions’ for rambling, beach walks, and birdwatching since 2018. 

But why wait for a prescription? In these short days and long nights, it’s even more important to get outside for some fresh air. (Just realised I sound like my Nan). But who doesn’t look healthier with ruddy cheeks? 

at top of loughrigg

Of course, the whole surrounding yourself with nature’ concept is great, but what if you live in an urban area, where access to green is rather limited? 

Which was where we found ourselves in the summer of 2020.  

In Central London. In Lockdown. 

Yet even in the most densely populated region of the UK, it turns out there are many  green spaces to lose yourself in. For several months we wandered the eerily empty streets, scanning for gaps in between the glass and concrete which led to wonderful pockets of stillness. 

Like Postman’s Park, one of the few gardens in the City of London, just a few streets up from St Pauls Cathedral. It was first opened in 1880 and became a popular lunchtime spot for workers at the nearby Old General Post Office, hence its name. 

It is also home to the Memorial for Heroic Self Sacrifices, unveiled by the artist George Frederick Watts in 1900. Over the years additional plaques have been added, with the 54th and most recent tile added in 2009 in honour of Leigh Pitt, who drowned in June 2007 saving a boy from the canal at Thamesmead. The additional plaque alongside holds a quote by Watts which reads:  

The material prosperity of a nation is not an abiding possession:The deeds of its people are. 





postmans park

There are still 66 empty spaces remaining, and in this awful year, I couldn’t help but think of all the incredible sacrifices that have been made by so many.  

66 empty spaces could not hold the thousands that have put their life before others throughout this pandemic. It was fascinating to find a small piece of history that bore so much relevance to today’s struggle. 

During the rest of our time in London, we found that urban walking could be just as uplifting as countryside hikes. There is still a rhythm to be found on the pavement. Still a need to put one foot in front of the other. To keep going. 

And, like Postman’s Park, you never know what you might discover. 

 And of course, I’m still wearing my walking boots… 

If you’ve been inspired to take a little stroll yourself  COVID 19 restrictions permitting of course –  then how about my guide to five of the best walks in the Lake DistrictAnd don’t worry if you’re not an avid hiker. Ican complete them, then you certainly can. Sign up below for a free downloadable PDF. 



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This