Get active and outside!

May 18, 2020

Getting outside and enjoying what nature has to offer is vital in these uncertain times, not only for your physical health, but your mental health too.

We work alongside the Public Health team at Northallerton County Hall and other local organisations, promoting access to walking and the benefits it has for health, wellbeing and the environment.

Jennie, who is the Project Officer for Discoveries on your Doorstep, tells us why getting outside is important, provided it can be done safely and by following Covid-19 guidelines.

There have been plenty of changes to our lifestyles over the past few weeks. Some we can get our heads around, some of which (I am sure) like me, you are still having to make sense of.

When lockdown was announced, one of my initial thoughts, amidst the confusion of the surreal situation, was the realisation that I was going to have to shift my walking routine from three walks a day to one.  Looking back now I realised this caused a bit of momentary panic!

It might sound silly, but I hadn’t actually consciously considered that I walked maybe three or sometimes four times a day.  This had become a natural, embedded habit and part of a daily routine. Like any habit I walked with little need for motivation, but my mind and body were aware if I didn’t get my quota and the thought of only getting out once a day was initially overwhelming. Each of these daily walks were invaluable to me.

My early morning walk got me and the dog up refreshed and focused for a day of work. Sifting through tasks in my head, for the day ahead, amidst the sunrise and birdsong.

My lunch time walk, usually just a short stroll to the car and round the block, grabbing some lunch and ensuring I got some fresh air and fresh eyes to break up tasks, encouraged motivation and re-focus for an afternoon of work.

The evening walks, precious time with family exploring new or favourite routes together, perhaps with friends or sometimes another solo space to park the day’s thoughts and quite literally stroll into the relaxation of the evening…

Not only does walking give me uninterrupted thinking space, which is invaluable for my mental health, it also inspires my work; sparking creative ideas or energising me with motivating endorphins. It brings me connection with nature which helps me to feel calm. Walking also means I can shamelessly enjoy a big wedge of cheese (or two), or the latest bake sale delights. Walking is a great form of physical exercise too, keeping me fit and healthy.

The adjustment of the one daily exercise guidelines did take a bit of planning, separating the dog walking between me and my partner – and each day thinking how my schedule was set and when I would most benefit from fitting that walk in.

For a day with a heavy task, requiring focus, I opted for the early morning walk to get refreshed and motivated for the day ahead. For days when I skipped from virtual meeting to virtual meeting, I scheduled the evening walk, so I could create some head space and allow my mind to re-order thoughts and return to home having spent some time out in nature and away from the space that is both work and home for now.

We are now allowed to take unlimited exercise, provided it is safe and adheres to guidelines – but this period of reflection has shown me how important my walks are.  I consciously notice myself savouring the sights and sounds it offers me.

What is fantastic to see is how others have adapted too.  My routine’s familiar faces have varied with new walkers/cyclists/runners shifting their own routines or starting out with fresh habits. People are being kind and caring, keeping their distance and yet calling out to say hello and asking with deep sincerity if you are well … you know the type of question when someone actually really cares about your response.

Community members have placed hand sanitiser by stiles, created diversion signs suggesting wider paths and farmers opened gates to reduce walker’s touching surfaces. I’ve spotted an emerging trend amongst some of the older residents in my neighbourhood (amidst social isolation) doing laps of their driveway to keep active, whilst honouring the guidelines.

Cuddly toys in windows for families to discover…  Treasure hunts in the local woods… People are exploring the neighbourhood, discovering parts of their local area in places not ventured before – and all by foot!

I am blown away by how we are demonstrating our resilience to change!

So, whether you are ‘chomping at the bit’ to get back to a more active routine or wondering if you will keep this sort of daily activity up when things are “normal” again in the future, I invite you to check in and notice the positive feelings you get from walking. The freedom, the space, the exploring.  Valuing the fun, free and fascinating things to discover on your doorstep.

I will be stepping into the future, healthy, happy and safe excited for more adventures and I hope you will be too.

You can find a range of resources to help make your exercise #Fun #Free and #Fascinating by following Discoveries on your Doorstep @DoyD_NYorks

Discoveries on your Doorstep is a scheme which aims to get people out and active in their local area through fun, free and fascinating walking routes.

You can also find some fun activities to do at home in our Discover section!