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Walking Like a Norwegian: Embracing the Health Benefits of a Simple Stroll



Walking is one of the simplest yet most effective forms of exercise. It requires no special equipment, can be done anywhere, and is accessible to nearly everyone. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Norway, a country that embodies the spirit of walking. In this article, I’ll explore the myriad benefits of walking, drawing on both my experiences in Norway and my work as a health and exercise professional in NW London.


Walking in Norway: A Cultural Staple


During my short break in Norway, I observed how deeply ingrained walking is in Norwegian culture. Whether it's the rugged mountain trails, serene coastal paths, or urban parks, Norwegians embrace walking not just as a form of exercise but as a way of life.

In Norway, walking is a daily activity that brings together people of all ages. It’s common to see families with young children, elderly couples, and groups of friends enjoying the outdoors. The concept of "friluftsliv," which translates to "open-air life," reflects the Norwegian ethos of spending time in nature, often through walking. This cultural emphasis on outdoor activity significantly contributes to the overall health and well-being of the population.



The Health Benefits of Walking


Walking offers numerous health benefits, many of which align with the reasons Norwegians are so fond of it. Here are some of the key advantages:


  • Cardiovascular Health: Walking is a low-impact aerobic exercise that improves heart health by increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure. Regular walking can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.


  • Weight Management: Engaging in regular walks helps burn calories and can be a vital part of a weight management programme. It's a manageable way to increase energy expenditure without the intensity of more vigorous exercises.


  • Mental Well-being: Walking has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. The combination of physical activity and being outdoors can enhance mood and reduce stress levels.


  • Improved Mobility: Regular walking strengthens the muscles and joints, enhancing balance and coordination. This can help prevent falls, particularly in older adults.


  • Social Interaction: Walking can be a social activity, fostering connections with friends, family, or even meeting new people. In Norway, group walks are a common way to socialise and build community ties.


  • Cognitive Benefits: Studies suggest that walking can improve cognitive function and potentially lower the risk of cognitive decline in older adults.



Walking with My Clients: A Path to Decompression


In my practice, I regularly incorporate walking into sessions with my clients. I’ve found that walking serves not only as a physical exercise but also as a therapeutic tool. Here’s how I use walking to help my clients decompress and engage with its positive effects:


  • Nature Walks: We often choose scenic routes, whether it's a local park or a trail, to enjoy the calming effects of nature. Being in green spaces has been linked to lower stress levels and improved mental health.


  • Mindful Walking: I encourage clients to focus on the rhythm of their steps and their surroundings, which helps in grounding their thoughts and reducing anxiety. This form of walking meditation can be particularly beneficial for clients dealing with stress or emotional challenges.


  • Goal Setting: Walking provides an excellent opportunity to set and achieve fitness goals. Whether it's increasing the distance or pace, achieving these milestones boosts confidence and motivation.


  • Social Walks: For clients who prefer social interaction, we organise group walks. This not only provides a support system but also makes the exercise more enjoyable and sustainable.



Walking: A Simple Step Towards Better Health


As I reflect on my time in Norway and the positive walking experiences with my clients, it's clear that this simple activity holds profound benefits. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll through a city park or embarking on a challenging hike in the Norwegian fjords, walking is a versatile and accessible way to enhance your health and well-being.

Incorporate more walking into your routine. Explore your local trails, take a break to walk during the workday, or start a walking group with friends or colleagues. The path to better health can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.


By embracing the practice of walking, we not only move towards physical fitness but also stride confidently into a life of enhanced mental clarity and emotional resilience.


References


  1. British Heart Foundation. (n.d.). Walking for health. Retrieved from https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/healthyliving/staying-active/walking-for-health

  2. Mental Health Foundation. (2023). How to look after your mental health using exercise. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/publications/how-look-after-your-mental-health-using-exercise

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. (2017). Walking: Your steps to health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-your-steps-to-health

  4. NHS. (2023). Benefits of walking. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/walking-for-health/

  5. Norwegian Institute of Public Health. (2022). Physical activity and health: Walking as part of daily life. Retrieved from https://www.fhi.no/en/op/Physical-activity/Physical-activity-and-health/

  6. Mind. (2023). Walking for mental health. Retrieved from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/walking-for-wellbeing/


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