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Thursday, May 31, 2018

The benefits of a simple walk

When my depression was at its worst, my family would say “go for a walk”. For someone with chronic fatigue syndrome which causes muscle aches and extreme exhaustion, the concept of going for a walk was overwhelming (and sometimes still is). Having previously been out and too exhausted to walk home, getting stranded and needing a taxi was often in the back of my mind. See the thing is a walk can be any length. A walk can be anywhere.- To the shops, just down the road, or in my case for the first part of my recovery it was walking down the stairs of my flat complex and making it outside. For some of you reading this you might think this seems silly, but for me it was a challenge. I didn’t manage it every day, but over time that walk outside led to crossing the road to sit at a pond, to walking an extra five minutes to the park.

Pokemon Go really helped me with my recovery when I needed to get out of the house more than half an hour, for those not familiar with the app you walk around looking for Pokemon which you try and catch. The incentive for me using this app was that it felt normal to stop and have a break from walking, as you need to stay put to catch your Pokemon. The novelty wore off after a few weeks, but it helped me let go of the embarrassment of having to stop on a short walk. I learnt to do things at my pace, rather than keeping up with others and burning out. And over time I became more honest with myself and learned how to listen to my body and understand it. This didn’t just happen overnight, it was a long process with ups as well as downs.

Here are some of the amazing benefits to going for a walk…

It doesn’t have to be a trek. A walk can mean anything and there are some great benefits to leaving the house… Walking outside and getting some sunlight gives your body Vitamin D which boosts your mood. Having Vitamin D deficiency can cause aches and pains, so getting out and about during the day can really help your body out.

Walking is yep you guessed it, it’s a form of exercise. I think we often have this misconception that exercise needs to be at the gym or involve hours of intense physical activity. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous; walking causes the blood to pump around the body and gets the muscles working. I check my steps on phone to see if I’m hitting the 10,000 step mark, I often don’t but it makes me think the next day I’ll try harder and it helps with pin pointing relapses of fatigue when I’ve outstretched myself.

Being in the house all day can get boring, there’s only do much Netflix I can take! Getting out let me think and let me be at peace. I guess it was a form of mindfulness as I was taking notice of my surroundings. It also more importantly for me at the time, broke the day up. It gave me the motivation I needed to get dressed and start the day, which was something I struggled with physically and mentally.

More reasons to walk:
• It’s good for your health and reduces the chances of developing some health conditions like diabetes.
• It’s free!
• You can get up and do it whenever and where ever you want.
• Walk alone or with someone and make it sociable.

For me a small walk led to longer walks. It helped me regain strength in my muscles and confidence with getting out of the house. My chronic fatigue isn’t as bad anymore and I put that partly down to that first walk out of my flat. A walk is how you define it, it’s what works for you that matters.
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New Leaf College are looking for students to write about their personal experiences with their own wellbeing and/or the college, to share it on the college's blog. If you're interested in blogging for us please send an email to newleaf.wellbeingcollege@hpft.nhs.uk.