Let's talk about walking. A chain of movements our human bodies are built for.

Walking is an ability we rely on but, aware of it or not, oftentimes simply dismiss. Modern technology has given us the possibility to make more distance in less time. To take care of many of our day to day businesses without moving much at all.

I've always loved walking. I think, it's the best way of getting to know one's environment. After all, you're reading this text on a hiking blog that carries a name with the word wandering in it. This does not mean I've always appreciated walking simply for what it is, like I do today. A few years back, I would take it for granted. Putting one foot in front of the other was merely the least I'd expect to do and in my then personal opinion very far from what I'd consider a workout or physical exercise. Running, climbing, any kind of sport and focused workouts would always get a higher priority in my life. Walking was just something to get me from some place to another.


Walking is a perfect activity to get to know the same places during different seasons. This is the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, NZ in autumn.


When I first left a routine life behind and started travelling, I very much tried to keep a certain routine with physical exercise.

The more my focus shifted towards hiking, mountains, more hiking, eventually the less time I ended up having for the same kind of workout routine I'd been used to up to that point. Or put in other words: The less time I was willing to spend on those kind of workouts. And also, the less energy I felt I had available for them. Frankly, to "squeeze in" a 10-15 km run - a standard regular distance until I left Germany - felt a lot harder after a 3 to 5 day tramp (hike) with a backpack almost as heavy as half my weight, having walked over 1, 2, 3,... passes and maybe all that at altitudes of over 3,500 m.

A lot harder.

That being said, I've always kept some sort of training "routine", more or less regular. And, I would always recommend to do so, at the very least to avoid injury and remain a basic overall fitness level.

Back to my first experiences away from a daily routine and while hiking some of South America's mountain ranges.

I'd soon realise that I actually needed a rest day here and there. Rest days were still a very strange concept to me back then. "I do not need rest days." A common and in hindsight very ignorant statement by me during these times. But under these new conditions my body would very quickly start showing me otherwise.

What I'd underestimated is how much energy I burned when walking 15+ km every day with a heavy weight on my back and average elevation gain/loss of 500 to 1,000 m and more. Not to mention the regular exercise I would get by taking off and putting back on that monster of a backpack multiple times per day. Sorry, am I repeating myself here? Anyway, talk about a weightlifting workout right there.

During my first multi day hikes I'd force myself to, at minimum, stick to my daily 30 to 60 minutes workouts. Yes, that meant I would get up super early to do so before starting my hiking business or at the end of a day's hike. The less frequency I'd have with runs, climbing and workouts the more I thought I was becoming unfit. All the while hiking pretty much every day.

Here's the thing, despite my perception I was really getting fitter and stronger. How come?

Everything I trained in my daily routine when I was, let's call her "office Saphi" but had to initialise by going for a run, heading to the boulder gym, getting up early enough to workout before work, I did as, let's call this state "mountain Saphi" by walking from A to B. With my house, kitchen, food and closet all on my back.

While I was putting one foot in front of the other I was lifting an average of 20+ kg instead of just my body weight. Including pulling myself up rocks or balancing on them with this extra weight.

(For less extreme examples for walking, have a look at how people spend their day to day lives in so called Blue Zones - areas on this planet where people live the longest healthy lives. Click here for a book recommendation.)


Studies have shown the benefits of walking to our mood and overall health, especially in forests


Needles to say, I did have some training losses in very specific areas, i.e. my finger strength wasn't quite as strong as I wasn't specifically training for this anymore and did much less climbing during this period. However, my overall fitness was much better.

The funny thing is though: I only started realising the importance of daily walking when I came back to a more or less routine life for a wee while. I went from mountain Saphi - walking and hiking daily with the occasional workout, run and climb here and there - back to office Saphi - running and climbing each a few times a week, almost daily workouts.

Yet, I felt like my overall fitness was almost declining. (Note: This is describing a time after lockdowns, etc. In this description, I'm not including my personal experience with the challenge of keeping a general fitness without the option to get out much. That's another story.)

Long walks and hikes seemed to suddenly feel less effortless than what I was used to. It took me a wee bit to figure out the why.

Yes, I was doing more frequent and specialised workouts again. But most of the time I now spent in what I call comfort. A 10 km run could not make up for 6+ hours of sitting at a desk. To sum this up and move to the next as I find very important point which is where we spend our walking:

Despite obvious benefits of aimed workouts and exercise, walking, if capable to do so, should never be dismissed.

Many of us drive to the gym to lift a few weights (or run a few minutes on a treadmill) and end up walking less than a few minutes per day. Completely neglecting the benefits of walking, which is by the way a surprisingly complex process.

Ever since my little walking epiphany I've given it more focus again. 7 to 10 km of walking of any kind daily has become a habit again. Although admittedly, in the beginning I found it much harder to integrate when living in a city with a somewhat routine than out and about with walking being a necessity.

If you also want to walk more in your daily life I can recommend doing your daily things by foot. Leave the car where it is, skip public transport. As a personal example, instead of cycling to my climbing gym I now walk. It's too close for the bike ride to be a challenge but far enough for a good walk.

The cool thing about this is that you can always "spice it up" by walking a different route, getting to know your neighbourhood and all the cheeky hidden spots of the space you inhabit.

The very best thing to my little hiker heart will always be to spend time walking in Nature. Nothing beats the soothing a walk through a forest can provide. Undeniably we are natural beings and therefore thrive in Nature. The lack of exposure to Her may likely cause unpleasant side effects.


Lake Gunn Nature Walk


A couple of weeks ago, I  had the chance to spend a few days in an abundance of lush green, moss covered forests. The kind of forest where you don't know where one organism ends and the other begins. Where death of a tree ultimately means the birth of an entire new ecosystem with many, many opportunities to thrive for different life forms.

So often would I start a walk in a forest, like the one you see on the pictures, with some problem, issue on my mind, maybe a lingering trauma that's been troubling me. Then, a few steps into the walk, I would get emersed in rustling leaves, creaking of trees, bird sound, the smell, let alone the visual effects all over the place. An unsolvable problem is suddenly provided with a whole bunch of solutions.


A walk in a healthy forest can provide almost instant calm


The best way I can further describe this is by using the term abundance. In a thriving forest, in any healthy and thriving ecosystem, there is abundance. And when you see abundance very soon you'll also feel abundance. Lack of connection (to others, to ourselves, to Nature, to the Universe, to God, whatever word you're comfortable with using) will be replaced with abundance of connection (again: to others, to ourselves,...). Lack of opportunities will become an abundance of opportunities. Ultimately, once we feel abundance we will start attracting abundance.

Before we get too philosophical, let's get back to some fundamentals we are exposed to when we go on a nature walk: Fresh air, movement, light, different microorganisms, all of these having beneficial impacts on our immune systems.

Put simply: Through any lens you look at it, scientifically, spiritually, or alike, the benefits of walking, especially in a thriving natural environment are obvious.

Thriving natural environments do not only exist in remote places. It can be a park in the neighbourhood, a community garden. The next revitalising walk may be right in front of our eyes and provide much needed calm. And maybe, hopefully, create an awareness that we need to be more careful with the kind of impact we're making.

Before we come to the end of this article I want to leave you with an idea, maybe a little challenge even:

~ Make a daily walk a habit ~

Preferably in Nature. This can be a forest nearby, a park or as I mentioned above something like a community garden.


Some rosemary bushes as part of a community park with a garden close to our apartment


When you do so, don't skip the uncomfortable days, when it rains, for example. Start with a reasonable distance - according to what you're currently used to - and increase a little bit each day. Pick a timespan for how long you want to do this at least to ensure it becomes a habit. Some studies suggest habits start forming after 3+ weeks, it may be longer or even shorter depending on you (and the habit in question).

The best part about it: Be curious and get creative with your walks.

Pick a nice looking spot on a map and walk there.

Take a backpack and do all or part of your grocery shopping by foot.

Pick up your kids from school by foot.

Start geocaching. :)

We all have different lives, different backgrounds, different environments we live in and not everybody has the same possibilities. If none of my examples even nearly resonate with you, there'll be something else, another option that'll work for you.

Simply start. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other.


Nope, I wasn't the one biting that off ;)

Further Readings

Below you'll find a list of books on the topics mentioned in this article or similar. These are books I've read and can personally recommend.


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