Walking: The Mental Health and Physical Benefits

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best solutions.

After a stressful day at work, or if you’re in the middle of trying to solve a problem, or if you want to jump start your creativity, walking – apparently – helps. Walking lowers your blood pressure, improves memory, and strengths your immune system.

According to author Erling Kagge, who wrote “Walking: One Step at a Time,” “Walking,” he writes, “I become the center of my own life, while completely forgetting myself afterwards.”

To put it simply, Kagge is what I would call a walking enthusiast.

In his book, he explores walking from a philosophical perspective, calling it “one of the most radical things we can do.” He says this because we live in such a fast-paced world, always having our eyes glues to our phones. Walking, by contrast, slows everything down . . . on purpose.
“Walking [i]s a combination of movement, humility, balance, curiosity, smell, sound, light and – if you walk far enough – longing,” Kagge writes. “A feeling that reaches for something, without finding it.”

Going on a simple walk, as noted above, gets a person moving, burning calories, and thinking. In some ways, our world is paradoxical: On the one hand, we engineer for lesser wait times, more speed, more hurry. While, on the other hand, many people remain more and more stagnate, watching TV, playing video games, scrolling endless through a social media news feed.

In a way, walking counters all of this.

Kagge also notes the psychological benefits of walking and also the excitement of it.

“There is a thrill to not knowing what you may encounter as you walk. Your thoughts become more restricted. No one who wants to get a hold of you knows where to find you. You are not living vicariously through other people. For one fleeting moment you can forget the rest of the world,” Kagge writes, concluding: “Past and future have no role as you walk.”

For me, this rings true. When I go out on a walk, after a short amount of time, I tend to forget my problems and focus on what is right in front of me. I will often tell myself if I feel like I’m in a slump: Move your body, and your mind will quickly follow.

It’s simple but true.

Taking even a wider view, according to Kagge, walking is more than an activity to help us feel better. Walking is what makes us human. Speaking about our species, Homo Sapiens, the author writes that “the ability to walk, to put one foot in front of the other, invented us” (his emphasis). The scientific term for being able to walk on two limbs is called “bipedalism,” and it’s relatively rare in nature except for a few other species.

Finally, the next time you feel a little anxious, or feel sad, try taking a walk. You may find yourself on an adventure that you didn’t plan for.

Kagge, E. (2019). Walking: one step at a time. Pantheon Books, New York, NY.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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