Whether it’s a long day, a bad mood or stress from daily life, walking has a way of taking the edge off. That old saying, just walk it off, has a lot of merit.

Fitness professional, Michele Merrell, says putting one foot in front of the other is a wonderful way take care of both your physical and mental wellbeing.

“When I walk, I feel joyful,” the Calgarian says. “Walking you can be in a state of flow when time just passes. And I find with walking I can achieve that state of flow (that leads to) better creativity and brings the stress levels down.”

Walking doesn’t require a gym membership or special gear. You just go.

“It’s completely accessible to anyone,” Merrell says.

For some of us, reclaiming life as we knew it while emerging from the pandemic means a return to fitness routines lost during lockdowns.

For those wanting to slowly build stamina and strength, walking is a step in the right direction.

“It’s a perfect place to start,” Merrell says.

Walking to and from work gives her time to reflect or, alternatively, clear the clutter from her mind. And a moderate, low-intensity walk after dinner for about 30 minutes prepares her mind and body for sleep, improves digestion and offers plenty of fresh air.

Other times, a walk is goodness worth sharing.

“It’s a great way to connect with someone. When you’re walking with a friend or a partner, you’re moving together, you’re seeing things, experiencing things, you’re out in the world as opposed to sitting at home,” she explains. “It’s an easy way to get out in your neighbourhood and connect with people in a healthy way.”

Don’t write off walking as an inferior workout. Adding hills and/or stairs or picking up the pace takes it from a lovely leisure activity to full-on fitness mode.

The Benefits of Walking Apply to All Ages and Budgets

For those who want to make healthy living more affordable, walking is easy on the budget. Merrell says a supportive pair of comfortable sneakers and a water bottle will get you out the door.

While walking is well-suited to many seniors, the activity is popular among younger generations who add it to their mental health toolkit. According to Ypulse, (which provides insight into the consumer habits of Gen Z and Millennials,) walking is among the Top 5 go-to activities those aged 13 and 39 relied on to deal with mental health issues in recent years.

The Top Mental Health Benefits of Walking

  • Brain Booster: A Neurology study showed  just 35 minutes of continuous walking or stationary biking three times a week, combined with a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, improved scores on thinking tests of subjects who had cognitive concerns, like remembering or concentrating.
  • Mindfulness: Meditation, although magical for some, doesn’t work for everyone. Walking — often dubbed ‘meditation in motion — is an alternative to combat depression and calm the mind.

“Walking meditation, also called kinhin or mindful walking, is a moving meditation from the Buddhist tradition. You keep your eyes open and use the experience of walking as the focal point. Unlike other forms of mindfulness and meditation, where you focus on the breath, mindful walking meditation encourages you to breathe without effort,” according to www.chopra.com. “You can do a quick meditation as you walk from your car to the grocery store. Or try a one-minute practice and meditate as you walk from your desk to go get water.”

Incorporate the Benefits of Walking into Your Day

Incorporating walking into daily routine is really easy — Try doing your commute on foot or get off public transit a few stops before to your destination. You can even try parking the car further from where you need to be.

Listen to your favourite podcast or if you prefer, soak up the scenery, paying attention to what you see and smell and how the air feels on your skin.