The Power of Walks

I think we’ve forgotten how to walk. Sure, we physically know how to put one foot in front of the other and arguably, almost everyone in the world walks every day. But when is the last time you walked, just to walk? No destination, no looking at a phone and with purpose. Discovering the power of walks can bring simplicity and peace of mind while engaging in the most basic activities. Walking allows us to go at a pace at which we can actively observe the world around us instead of rushing from one destination to the next. Record numbers of people are feeling more anxious and more overwhelmed trying to navigate through life right now. All the more reason to take a break, leave your worries at the door and walk.

Where to start

Your walking environment makes all the difference when aiming for a relaxing and purposeful walk. No one wants to be walking along a busy street, having to use crosswalks at every block. If you live on-campus at the University of Florida, the walk to Lake Alice offers a mostly shaded stroll along Museum Road. Along the way, stop by University Gardens and walk through a short path that borders the lake and surrounding trees. Or try the Field and Fork Farm Gardens right across the street is open to the public in addition to the bat houses.

Want a longer walk? Try any of the trails at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park for a more immersive nature experience. Sweetwater Wetlands Park is a favorite for walkers due to well-marked paths, numerous bird species and occasional alligators. Bolen Bluff is a great trail as well that allows visitors to walk into the prairie and enjoy the scenery from a lookout. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of campus, and exploring the outdoors, is a beneficial way to destress and relax.

Timing is everything

Sure, you might pick a fantastic spot to walk, but that walk will soon turn treacherous if you try and do it at 1 p.m. on a scorching summer day. Since Florida can be unbearably hot pretty much eight months out of the year, aiming for morning and evening walks will save you sweat and tears. A morning stroll is a great way to give yourself an energy boost for the day. Try a sunrise walk in the prairie or at Lake Alice to provide you with epic photo-ops and views. Not a morning person? An evening walk can be just as relaxing and beneficial. A leisurely trek after dinner can aid in digestion and speeds up metabolism

Accessories

Did you think you were just going to put on some tennis shoes, pick a place and time and start walking? You would forget the arguably best and most essential part of your walking start kit. Accessories. Sure, you will need sunglasses, water and sunscreen depending on temperature and time of day, but those aren’t very exciting. I’m talking podcasts, the ultimate playlists and the right company. Let it be known that though walking with just your thoughts can be meditative and relaxing, it can get mundane day after day. Instead, listen to something energizing or immersive to keep your mind stimulated. Podcast options are endless, with everything ranging from comedy, life-advice, true crime and education. For a show that will hook you right off the bat, try “Crime Junkies,” which features a new true crime episode every Monday and engaging hosts that feel like close friends. Not a podcast person? A well-crafted playlist can change the quality of your walk in an instant. If you aren’t feeling any of your playlists, Spotify’s “Mood Booster” and “Good Vibes” playlists will pull you out of any funk.

However, walking with a friend or someone you care about might be the best way to spend your time. It’s a great (and safe) way to catch-up with a friend or colleague with no pressure. Maintaining relationships during the pandemic is challenging, but a casual walk is a valuable tool for staying connected.  

It’s time to get back to the basics with walking and enjoy time spent with purpose. As exercise and wellness techniques become more complicated and harder to follow in the modern age, walking is a restorative way to relax and stay active simultaneously. So, lace up your shoes, throw on some sunglasses and I’ll see you outside.