Are you a purposeless walker?

The hot topic in the outdoors world this month is purposeless walking. As the UK celebrates National Walking Month, including Walk to Work Week and Walk to School Week, a number of experts have started a discussion about the benefits of purposeless walking.

Purposeless walking is the activity of going for a walk for no reason other than to go for a walk. While many people usually plan to walk somewhere, for a set distance, for fitness or to lose weight, purposeless walking is the opposite. It is walking with no goal in mind and simply to enjoy walking aimlessly.

It’s said that purposeless walking aids mental health and offers a place for thinking and creative thoughts.

Purposeless walkers we know

The great poet William Wordsworth was a walker. His work was linked to strolling in the Lake District and becoming lost in his thoughts.

Writer Charles Dickens was also a walker. He could hike up to 20 miles at a time and frequently at night.

Another writer, Virginia Woolf, is also said to have walked for inspiration. She walked in the South Downs and also loved strolling through the parks of London.

Novelist CS Lewis thought that even talking could spoil a walk. He once said: "The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared."

Today, another great walker for inspiration and stress relief is the prolific Scottish painter Peter Howson. He said: “If I am feeling stressed or down I walk out the front door and stroll the streets of Glasgow. I have no particular direction I just walk. I might meet people along the way but mostly I am thinking. It calms me and makes me ready for my painting.”

Promoting purposeless walking

A new book, A Philosophy of Walking, by Prof Frederic Gros, promotes is the freedom of walking and the escape realised from walking aimlessly.

A recent study from Stanford University shows that even walking on a treadmill improves creative thinking.

Geoff Nicholson, an American author who wrote The Lost Art of Walking reckons there is “something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together”

He adds: “Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively."

How to walk purposelessly

Purposeless walking might mean different things to different people. Even going for a purposeful walk, say to the top of a hill or to work, can allow time for being purposeless. It’s the time for letting your thoughts drift that is important. Making no plans is critical to the art of purposeless walking and the benefits it can bring in terms of inspiring thoughts, de-stressing and creative ideas.

Tips for walking purposelessly:

  • Walk further and with no fixed route
  • Leave your mobile phone in your bag
  • Walk where you do not need a map
  • Don't listen to music or an audio book
  • Walk solo
  • Find walkable places
  • Walk mindfully

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