I started walking seriously after a long bout of depression that stemmed from insomnia and had resulted in my staying in the house for long periods of time over the summer feeling drained of energy. A friend of mine (Anthony) had encouraged me to come walking with him in the Autumn and on the first occasion I recall feeling nauseous from the exertion, but we kept at it, and continued walking regardless of the weather and throughout the winter. As my fitness levels increased so did my happiness and the walking became an end in itself to enjoy. We walked in torrential rain, snow flurries, and sunshine.
There are numerous reports on the benefits of walking and many writers appear perceptive of the need to walk. For instance Ernest Hemmingway recommended walking as a way of mulling over and solving problems. Some of his best thoughts came to him whilst walking: “when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something that they understood.” ― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast. Henry David Thoreau saw walking as a necessity to maintain his sanity. ” I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say a penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shop-keepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them — as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon — I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.”
There have been many empirical studies that have demonstrated that walking in nature has considerable beneficial psychological effects including recovery from attentional fatigue, stress reduction, and improved cerebral activity (it really is good for thinking) and a more balanced emotional state. It is even correlated with increased altruism.
I suspect that much of the benefits of walking, aside from the benefits of moderate exercise, stem from the evolutionary history of humans. More than 99% of human evolutionary history has been spent in the natural environment and this impacts on who we are today and how we react to changes in that environment. The human tendency to be close to nature, to return to aspects of our evolutionary past indicates that being in contact with nature is an important component of human well-being. It is certainly true in my case.
Here are some pictures after walking along to the tops of the southern mountains of Snowdon which is my favorite place to walk.