COVID-19: “We should put down all devices and just walk”

April 15, 2020
Clare Brown

In a recent article for Aeon Magazine, John Kaag and Susan Froderberg suggest that for the full life experience, we should put down all our mobile devices and just walk.

Due to coronavirus, going outside for a walk is currently subject to government advice, which states:

If you can, once a day get outside, or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can’t get outside much you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight, or get out into the garden if you can.

In light of the above advice, this thought-provoking essay resonated for a number of reasons. Going outside has become both a luxury and a necessity, so walking is no longer something that we should monitor, or treat as a chore, but something that is essential to our wellbeing. We should be walking simply for the pleasure of being outside. 

I must confess to mentally tackling research queries and work related questions when I’m walking my usual route. I’m not necessarily paying attention to my immediate surroundings, however many people are taking this opportunity to turn their attention outwards, rather than inwards;

According to one student and his partner, a morning walk provides a sense of normality in an unusual time. They walk for 30 to 40 minutes every morning after they have their morning coffee but before breakfast. They try to change up the route each day, going down little side streets they haven’t gone down before. They have lately taken to observing the different styles of architecture represented in London.

When you are walking in familiar territory, but in unfamiliar times, everything takes on a new significance. You are more likely to notice and appreciate minute changes. 

During the Easter break, instead of exploring further afield as I normally would, I spent hours in a garden I know well. Although the location was the same, the wildlife was busy making changes. Goldfinches, siskins, sparrows, starlings, blackbirds; they are busy finding mates, building nests, and generally doing what birds do in the spring. 

I’m not particularly knowledgeable about species of birds so I was reliant on someone else’s experience. Therefore I went to find an app on how to identify garden birds, and give me some more information on their song and habits. Never have we had more gadgets and apps to monitor, enhance, guide and influence the way we interact with the Great Outdoors. But is this necessarily a good thing?

As this essay explains; 

Walking, simply for the sake of a walk, can be a brief respite in our otherwise frenetic lives, allowing us to detach so we might see life for ourselves again, not unlike a child does [...] In art we are returned to a more expansive world. Happily, we can travel through this world by walking, with an attitude of detachment, in a state of awareness, attention. We can behold, rather than be held.

Whether you leave your phone at home, or take it with you, time outside should be savoured and enjoyed. Anything that makes this challenging time better and more productive is worthwhile! 

How is working from home for you? How has it impacted your exercise routine? 

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