Following the walk of a lifetime on the Camino de Santiago in Spain (all 113kms of it), I reflected on the reasons why I walk, why I’ve always walked… cue image of a screaming newborn and my worried partner saying ‘Why don’t you go for a walk? You always feel better when you walk.’
He was right… that day I put my very new and very screamy son in his pram, and I walked and walked and walked. So, fast-forward eleven years and one perimenopausal meltdown later, I started walking again to manage my own internal screaming, and I soon realised that walking for wellbeing might have been my goal, but it wasn’t the purpose of every walk.
There are fundamental whys behind a walk/wheel, such as getting from A to B or as a form of exercise, but during my menopause season I have been walking to feel connected to the environment and more importantly connecting with myself. However, there have been times when I’ve walked to switch off, step out of the world or make sense of my situation.
Sometimes I walk to find inspiration, mull over a problem, or engage in my surroundings. At other times I walk because I don’t know what else to do. I don’t always know how to manage my mood or quiet the mindless chatter in my mind. Yet, through my myriad of walks, I’ve learnt that a stroll is good for the menopausal soul.
Here are my ten favourite walks for mood and menopause:
- An awe walk – When I’m overwhelmed with menopausal symptoms, it can be hard to focus on anything else. However, during an “awe walk”, Bryan E. Robinson explains, you can consciously move your attention outward instead of inward creating ’an overwhelming, self-transcendent sense of wonder and reverence in which you feel a part of something that is vast, larger than you,’ and this helps me find some perspective. So, why not head outside, engage your senses, and find joy in nature and landscapes, such as a magnificent sunset?
- A meditative meander – Saying affirmations, such as ‘I am present… I am calm… All is well in my world,’ or walking in time with your breath helps create mindfulness, which can help settle a menopausal mind and find some calm in the chaos.
- A wonder wander – In menopause, my mind sometimes feels muddled, and answers/solutions to problems or creative inspiration can be hard to find. According to a Stanford Study by May Wong walking improves creativity by 60%. So, if you are feeling stuck, why not try setting an intention and off you go?
- A walk break-breather – Walks don’t need to be long (certainly not Camino de Santiago long) and are perfect for taking some time out when you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, and shorter walks can fit into the busiest of schedules.
- A moon walk – If you’re struggling to sleep during menopause, late evening walks can offer a different perspective on familiar settings. You can track different moon phases and their specific benefits using moon apps and Julia Clarke explains why you should give full moon hiking a go, offering tips to help enjoy a walk in the moonlight safely.
- A whimsy walk – Sometimes brain fog in menopause can mean it’s hard to think and focus, so without too much thought, I often put one foot in front of the other and go where my feet take me. You never know what you might discover about yourself and the world when your feet take you where they want to go.
- A barefoot walk – Walking barefoot for 20 minutes in your garden, local park, beach or a canal tow path (my personal favourite!) is the ultimate grounding experience and can help ease menopause symptoms. According to Emily Kanter, grounding can also improve sleep, increase energy levels, and lead to better mental health. If you’d like to give it a go Laura Koniver explores further practical applications of grounding to support health.
- An energy-burn walk– This might just be me, but if I’m having a hot-flash it doesn’t matter if I get hotter and sweatier, so I use them to power my walks – sometimes brisk, sometimes slow, but the fresh air and exercise always helps them pass.
- A lethargy-lift walk – In contrast, when I’m fatigued or feeling sluggish it’s hard to find the energy to do much, but I can always find the energy for a single step… then another and then one more. I never regret hauling myself off the sofa and always feel re-energised after getting out and about. The first step is all you need to start with.
- A socially connected walk – Social bonding raises oxytocin levels, which can help minimise menopause symptoms, such as mood swings and depression. It has also been shown to help alleviate chronic joint and muscle pain. What better excuse do you need for a ‘walk and talk’ with a friend?
- A walking book club – I know I said ten walks, but I’ve added this extra one as it unites my favourite hobbies- walking and reading. What’s not to love? If there aren’t any walking book clubs near you, why not start your own?
For me, understanding the reason why I walk… why I need to walk, has given me a renewed sense of purpose, and the option to pick and mix my walks to suit my perimenopause symptoms helps me feel more in control. More importantly, I’m managing my mid-life metamorphosis in an accessible, inexpensive and enjoyable way. Win-Win!
If you need a little encouragement to start your own walking/wheeling adventures, Living Streets organise National Walking Month to ‘celebrate the health and happiness of walking/wheeling more,’ and provide a helpful, printable tip sheet to help you find time in your day.
Alternatively, if you start every journey with an open heart, a curious mind, you can always create your own wonderful whys of a walk/wheel.
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