Walk away the stress, says woman who met husband while out rambling

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Stressed out Yorkshire people are turning to walking to make them feel better. Catherine Scott reports.

More people are turning to rambling in a bod to reduce their stress levels.

According to new figures from the Ramblers Assoication over half of those who ever feel stressed (59.5 per cent) in Yorkshire and the Humber reported that they had gone for a walk either by themselves, or with others, in nature or green spaces to help them deal with feelings of stress,

Indeed, going for a walk on their own was the single biggest solution turned to for dealing with feelings of stress. It was cited by nearly half (48.9 per cent) of respondents from the Yorkshire and Humber area who have ever felt stressed, beating into second place relaxing on the sofa, which was cited by 48.7 per cent respondents in the region in this poll conducted by YouGov Plc.

These new statistics are released as the Ramblers’ 500 walking groups organise their Festival Of Winter Walks (running until January 5). Right across Great Britain.

There is a growing evidence base for the benefits of walking as not only a way of dealing with stress-related mental health conditions such as depression, but for helping to prevent them occurring in the first place. For example, an article published in May in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that “replacing a sedentary lifestyle with 15 minutes of strenuous activity daily or one hour of moderate activity was associated with a potential relative reduction in the odds of developing depression by 26 per cent”. Very new research published last month in the journal Depression & Anxiety suggests that exercising for just over half an hour a day can cut the risk of depression, even in those with a family history of the condition.

Walking has numerous, well-documented health and social benefits. With the Ramblers Walking For Health initiative offering 1,800 short walks every week, the bestselling new book In Praise of Walking by neuroscientist Professor Shane O’Mara, professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin has shown that plenty of regular walking is a key way to unlocking the cognitive powers of the brain.

Nikki Hall from Leeds, found walking the with Ramblers helped at a really difficult time in her life

“Walking is great for stress-busting, because it’s almost impossible to worry about things when you’re out in the fresh air for the day with friends, enjoying the stunning scenery Yorkshire has to offer. Until I went out with the Ramblers I had no idea how many beautiful places were right on my doorstep,” says Nikki. “I got divorced and found myself single. I had no friends who were into walking, so in 2011 I took the plunge and decided to go on a Ramblers walk. I thought “I’ll try it once, I’ve got nothing to lose”, but to be honest I was nervous – I thought they would all be really experienced walkers with poles and all the gear, and I thought they’d all be older, retired people – not working professional people like me.

“It was the making of me – I’ve never looked back. The group I joined were really friendly and welcoming, and very diverse in terms of backgrounds. I made lots of new girlfriends, and it really boosted my confidence. And it’s not just me, every time we’re out walking, another group member will always talk about how much walking helps with their mental health.”

Nikki says it has physical as well as mental benefits.

“I was really unfit when I joined – I was always the one at the back of the walk, often slipping over in the mud. But there were always people who would help the ones at the back, including Rich (now my husband) – he would always come and help us.”

The pair were due to get married but a routine breast screening detected Nikki had breast cancer. “Thankfully they caught it really early and I am fine now, but it meant that we had to postpone our wedding – we finally got married last year in March in St Lucia. My Ramblers group has given me so much support, confidence and walking experience – not to mention a lovely husband.”

Pauline Scott went through a long, hard divorce, only to lose her mother suddenly last March. Feeling lost and grief-stricken, although she had never really walked any distance before, she contacted Darlington Ramblers, who encouraged her to come along and give it a go.

“I have never looked back. The group are very friendly and inclusive, and both my mental well-being and fitness have improved. Just being in the great outdoors has helped me move forward, along with seeing things you never see when you drive everywhere – Nature’s hidden secrets. So, thank you Ramblers.

“My top tip for winter walking is to keep an extra fleece in your bag just to wear when you have lunch, as the cold can catch up with you when you stop.”

And what is her favourite place to walk.

“My favourite place to walk in winter is the Yorkshire Dales, especially near Buckden Pike – just stunning.”

For more information and to find your nearest Ramblers group visit www.ramblers.org.uk