Various researchers have discovered that walking protects our brains. There have been studies at the University of Miami into the effects of walking, which show that those who do not walk experience cognitive decline in ageing quicker than walkers do, and they have shown that walking six miles a week protects brain size and enhances memory. This enhancement of cognitive capacity seems greatest in regions associated with planning and memory.
Studies at the University of Toulouse have shown that walking outdoors improves mood and helps alleviate mild depression. I think that this may be due to the fact that walking is an inherently stress-free activity, so when we do it we are replacing stressful activities with a stress-free one, and that cannot be bad for us.
There is a link between walking and thinking. Stephen Zwolinsky of Leeds Beckett university says that human are designed to solve problems while walking for fourteen hours a day. I know that when I was a theological student in the North West of Ireland I used to slip out of college at night [against the rules, but no one looked for me] and walk the roads, often in the dark,pondering questions in the philosophy of religion. I got more from that than I did from some lectures. We can walk alert to nature, picking up its sights and sounds, listening to the music of wind and water and catching the play of the light and the ever-changing cloudscapes above us. When walking, be it in town or country, we can gently stimulate our minds in a low-stress way, though pondering along dark lanes at night might not be the lowest stressed from of walking.
The precise amount of walking that we need to do daily is not clear.Several years ago scientists plucked a figure from the air of ten thousand steps a day, but there was never any scientific basis for this, and more recent figures have been around twelve thousand steps daily. But I believe that any regular walking is good for you. I rarely do ten thousand steps a day, but seven thousand is not unusual for me. I am at 7923 today and it is only five o'clock in the afternoon, so there is more time to walk.
I have always loved walking, ever since my parents, who could not afford a car, used to take me and my brother by bus to Werneth Low, a small peak in the foothills of the Pennines, the range that divides North West from North East England. Happy days when I was under five years old and the sun shone. I have not done a twenty mile walk for some time, as commitments to family and the allotment are quite demanding, but I have done plenty of shorter walks. There is a yearning on me for a good long one, so where next and when, as the Autumn is drawing in and the weather in our stormy isle is not so good?