The benefits of walking on your own

I’m as red as a lobster, I’m as hot as a chilli and I’m dripping with sweat. Granted, I’m not looking my best right now, but fortunately for me there’s no one around to comment on my appearance, not that I’d care. I’ve just completed the spectacular 19.5km Spit to Manly North Head Walk through bushland reserves, up steep steps and passing popular beaches and I feel absolutely ecstatic.

For me there’s nothing more refreshing than a long walk all on my own. It’s just me, my comfy trainers and the picturesque landscape ahead. I can walk where I like, stop when I want and set my own walking pace. I’m not even governed by other people’s busy calendars. I can simply pack my bag, set off at my own convenience and zone out from the world. However, for many, a solo walk isn’t as appealing. Walking alone can feel strange, be ‘uncool’ or frustrating when the path isn’t clearly marked and you don’t know whether to go left or right. Others may even feel unsafe, particularly if you’re female.

In spite of this, walking is a fantastic way to clear your head, reduce stress and enjoy the local scenery. Unsurprisingly, walking as little as 30 minutes a day has plenty of positive health benefits, including lower Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol, lower fasting blood sugar (glucose) and reduced stress, better memory and cognitive function, along with a better mood and a longer life.

Walking is also gentle on the joints, depending on your walking speed and gradient so is suitable for all ages young and old. With COVID-19 (coronavirus) limiting our movements, and our ability to walk in larger groups, today walking on your own is advisable.

With that in mind, here are my top benefits of walking on your own through COVID-19 and beyond:

10 Benefits of walking alone

  1. It gives you time to think
    Walking is a great way to clear your mind and de-stress. It’s also a great opportunity to think things through and come up with new ideas or solutions without interruptions from other people.
  2. You can set your own pace
    Walking with friends or family is great, but sometimes it can stop you from achieving your walking goals. By walking solo, you can set a pace that suits you. Push yourself with a fast uphill walk, or enjoy a gentler walk after a hard week of work.
  3. Choose your route or change it up
    Walking solo means you get to decide where you want to walk and the type of walk to do. Maybe you’re in the mood for a picturesque coastal walk with a cool sea breeze, or perhaps you want a steep, uphill route to test your stamina. You also have the ability to change your route as you go. Why not extend it if you feel like it wasn’t long enough, or cut it down if you’re feeling tired.
  4. You can start when you want
    I personally love walking in the mornings, the temperature is cooler, there’s less people around and it means I have more time to complete the route without feeling rushed. However, a great benefit of walking alone is the ability to choose when you want to start walking. Prefer a lie in or need to run an errand first? No problem – no one’s waiting on you.
  5. You can stop without feeling guilty
    For me taking photos and recording the walk is something I love to do. However, your friends or family might not be such a fan of waiting for you to capture that 20th insta worthy photo moment. Take as many pit stops as you like without the guilt whether that’s a toilet break, amazing photo opportunity or simply to fuel up on snacks!
  6. Listen to music or your surrounds
    Walking alone gives you the chance to listen to your favourite music if you desire. However, I prefer to walk music-free and listen to the nature around me which is just as refreshing. Listen to the waves crashing along the shoreline, the excited chatter of birds in a neighbouring gum tree or even the sudden splash of a fish jumping out of a tranquil lake - all sounds you might miss with your headphones in.
  7. Concentrate on your form and walking technique
    Walking solo also gives you the chance to concentrate on your posture and your walking technique to help you avoid injury. Concentrate on keeping your head up, stand tall and avoid arching your back. Suck in your stomach, relax your shoulders and step lightly, rolling forward from heel to toe, whilst letting your arms swing by your side like a pendulum.
  8. Meet new people
    Solo walkers tend to be more approachable and is a great way to meet new people who might also be walking independently. One downside though, you’re a higher contender for being asked to take people’s photos!
  9. You don’t have to rely on others to be free
    As mentioned above, you don’t have to rely on your friends and family to be free to go walking. Sometimes your calendars might not align making it difficult to find a convenient time that suits you all. Walking alone however is easy.
  10. Be comfortable with who you are
    Walking on your own also allows you to become comfortable in your own skin. It helps to improve self-confidence, urging you to visit brand new places or tackle challenging steep, rocky climbs. It also gives you time to reflect on what you like or might not like about yourself and your life. The best of all? If you turn as red as a lobster, watermelon or dahlia, no one is there to take photographic evidence of you!

Walking alone fiona

Walking solo

Ready to start walking alone? Here’s some ideas to help you along the way:

7 Ways to make walking more enjoyable

  1. Set a goal
    What do you want to achieve from you walk? Fitness, stamina, weight loss.
  2. Schedule a time that suits you
    For me I love walking in the mornings, it’s cooler and less crowded.
  3. Make it fun
    Include something interesting along the way - a local market, a favourite cafe, or a heritage trail to learn something new.
  4. Find a new area
    Walking the same route can get tedious. Consider exploring a new area, even a new part your local neighbourhood.
  5. Make a walking playlist
    For those that enjoy walking with music, consider creating a new playlist to keep you motivated along the way.
  6. Bring your favourite snacks
    Why not bring your favourite snacks for a scrumptious picnic en route and replenish those calories you’re burning.
  7. Record the walk
    Take photos, videos or even do a sketch along the way to remind yourself of what you saw and achieved. This will serve as a fond reminder to walk there again in the future.

Walk safe

If you are planning a walk on your own, remember to stay safe.

  1. Always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be home.
  2. Avoid walking in the dark.
  3. Bring plenty of water and snacks.
  4. Make sure you carry your phone and bring a power bank.
  5. Carry a first aid kit containing plasters, bandages, antiseptic cream and paracetamol as basics.
  6. If you’re walking in the bush, research the route and check for fire alerts. Download the Fires Near Me app.
  7. Always walk facing traffic.
  8. Keep the music volume down.