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  • Chris Hellewell

A walk is never a waste of time




I have always loved walking but it became a more critical feature of my life when I developed severe tendonitis in both of my elbows. Walking was finally a way to allow my elbows to rest and increase blood flow through my inflamed joints.


I realized that most activities I needed to do or enjoyed required the use of my elbows, which, as anyone who has dealt with chronic pain knows, is incredibly frustrating. I remember tying a scarf around both elbows and propping them up with my shoulders as I worked on my laptop, just to try and get some relief. It didn’t work well but I was desperate. I tried many therapies and though far less acute, I still have flare ups and manage them as best as I can.


When it was at its worst, I would walk awhile and then find a quiet place where I would complete a series of stretches my physiotherapist taught me. I used to say that I needed to “shake out my bows”. It was always bad following a heavy day of computer work or a long drive in the car. 


I developed the mantra of “a walk is never a waste of time” and became more deliberate about incorporating walking into my day.


Whatever the circumstances that have prompted me to walk, I begin to release the stresses that have been building for me with each step I take. It’s not about ignoring my problems and emotions; it’s taking the tension of all that has just happened, and all that yet needs doing, and letting it ease. Gaining some perspective by literally moving through space for vision; finding I am already sketching out a plan for tackling the problems I face. It might be about a difficult conversation with a loved one, friend or colleague. It might be an unexpected bill or an issue with childcare that needs to be addressed. Maybe it’s a busy day at work and a need for some careful planning to get everything done.


When I notice myself feeling agitated, more easily annoyed or anxious, the antidote is often simply to take a walk. 


Good habits are often borne out of necessity and sometimes fall apart when the intensity of the difficulty has diminished. Walking is an activity that we often drop when we get busy, when we feel down, or when the weather isn’t ideal, yet its health benefits are many. From cardiovascular health, increased muscular strength and endurance, reduced joint and muscle pain and stiffness, reduced risk of heart disease or stroke, better management of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and a host of other positive effects.


Moving out in the world, especially in beautiful places in nature amongst trees or or along a body of water, not only benefits our physical health, it can transform our mental health. I often ask others if they enjoy walking and find that for many it plays an important role in their lives, which is felt especially in its absence. 


My favorite kind of walk is one where I have hours to explore in a beautiful landscape. Though I don’t do these long walks often these days, they have a sustaining power, and bring my stress and anxiety levels right down.


These days most of my walks are with my partner and our two daughters. Our walks together are often along the beach collecting sea glass, driftwood, shells and rocks. These too have a sustaining quality for me, knowing how fleeting these early years are and how precious their curiosity and wonder. 


I encourage you to take a walk today. It could be a short or long walk, even a 15 minute walk is a great way to get a break from your work and get some space from whatever you are focused on.


If you are getting stuck on something, it could be a way to get some new perspective or come up with a creative solution. 


Chris Hellewell (MSW RSW) (he/him) is a therapist providing virtual therapy at Emotion Wise Counselling. Reach out today to connect with Chris for support at info@emotionwise.ca




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