Walking to stress bust over the festive period

Festival of Winter Walks

Recent research commissioned by the Ramblers shows that Brits are finding their feet when it comes to stress-busting. Over half of those who ever feel stressed (55.9%) 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. 89.9% of those polled agreed that walking in nature or green spaces helps them to unwind and relax, showing that going for a walk in nature is the perfect way to switch off.

Whilst relaxing on the sofa was cited as the single biggest solution for dealing with feelings of stress (it was cited by over half (56.3%) of overall respondents who ever feel stressed) this might not be the best solution as research shows that the benefits of walking not only help us deal with stress and stress-related mental health conditions such as depression, but also help prevent them occurring in the first place. 

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%”, whilst 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. 

The Ramblers’ own research shows that extremely high numbers of people reported experiencing positive well-being benefits from spending time walking in nature or green spaces. 70.1% said it made them feel peaceful; 69.8% said it made them feel calm and 58.7% said they felt happy.

These new statistics are released as the Ramblers’ 500 walking groups prepare to give everyone the chance to enjoy the wonderful winter landscape in good company – to relax, unwind and stress-bust, and to make new friends – by joining in with their Festival Of Winter Walks (20 December 2019 to 5 January 2020). Right across Great Britain, friendly Ramblers local groups will be hosting group walks which anyone can join for free. 

Well known Welsh musician / presenter Cerys Matthews said: “I love walking in winter, in places like the Pembrokeshire Coast. Making tracks in stunning and ancient landscapes really makes you think. And if you fancy enjoying the benefits of walking like this and the chance to meet like-minded folk, check out 'The Ramblers’ Festival Of Winter Walks’ which offers hundreds of free group walks across the UK. Whether you’re an experienced walker or a newcomer, grab a woolly hat, a waterproof jacket and boots and join a Ramblers’ festive walk happening near you.”

There will be fun, winter-themed walks that children will love; urban wanders as well as countryside hikes; leisurely strolls under five miles for people new to walking; and longer walks for those wanting more of a challenge. You can find your nearest Ramblers group or festive group walk online at: www.ramblers.org.uk

Angela Charlton, director of Ramblers Cymru said: “During the festive season, many people can feel overwhelmed, stressed, isolated or disconnected from the outside world. But as our survey results show, more and more of us are discovering the health and wellbeing benefits of getting off the sofa, getting out and walking, and reconnecting with nature to lift our mood. Whether or not you’re already a Ramblers member or an experienced walker, we’re really looking forward to welcoming you on a Ramblers Festival Of Winter Walks group walk.”

Other key findings from the Ramblers’ new research include:

  • Respondents in Wales topped the ‘league table’ of those strongly agreeing that walking helped them to unwind and relax (68.4% of Wales-based respondents), whilst a whopping 79.1% of people based in the South East said that spending time walking in nature or green spaces made them feel peaceful.  (NB: further survey results for the devolved nations of Scotland and Wales, and for regions of England are also available.) 
  • Buying presents was far and away the most popular reason for ‘festive stress’ reported by those surveyed: nearly half of them (44.3%) cited it as reason for ever feeling stressed during the festive season. In second place was feeling the pressure to go to parties or celebrate, which was cited by 28.6% of respondents.
  • 45.4% of those surveyed who have ever felt stressed said they had gone for a walk on their own to help them deal with feelings of stress, whilst 28.2% said they had gone for a walk with others.

Welsh TV presenter and People’s Postcode Lottery ambassador Matt Johnson, a keen winter walker, said: “We can all benefit from reconnecting with nature this winter. I know walking has a hugely positive impact on how I feel, helping to blow away the cobwebs and feel better. Thanks to the generous support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the Ramblers Festival of Winter Walks will bring hundreds of people together outdoors, walking in winter in good company, escaping the everyday and finding a new place, at their pace, in beautiful scenery.  Ramblers groups right across Great Britain will be leading walks throughout the festival, so just turn up for a welcoming walk near you.  Happy winter wandering!” 

To help everyone enjoy walking at this time of year and beyond, the Ramblers will be publishing a free winter walking guide. It will be available to download from 20 December at: www.ramblers.org.uk. Meanwhile, all year round, anyone can enjoy three free Ramblers group walks before deciding to become a Ramblers member – just £3.05 a month (£2.15 concessionary rate) gives members access to 500 walking groups across Great Britain and an extensive online library of walking routes. Find out more about membership.

The Ramblers’ work to help everyone enjoy the benefits of walking is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.