Should you be walking for better mental health?

Rain or shine, or even snow, TikTok users seem to think so

Am i walking to feel better or am I feeling better because I’m walking? Photo Gabriela Vasquez-Rondon

For the past three weeks, people have been sharing short videos of themselves taking walks on TikTok, surrounded by snow, with some version of the sentence “going on a walk for my mental health” written either on the video itself or in the caption. I’m here to tell you about my experience with the trend!

The original poster ninalaevski, a Russian living in Oregon, who amassed more than eight million views and more than 893 thousand likes, called it the ‘#stupidwalkchallenge’ on Dec.27. Soon after, thousands of Canadians joined the trend, using the same audio: Viejo Mundo by Yo Bebo Vodka.

As a predominantly pedestrian individual myself, even before the pandemic had started, I decided to take part in the trend. It started snowing shortly after I started filming the TikTok, so it was even more fitting.

I found more videos doing a similar trend using the same sound: taking a pregnancy walk, or cats walking towards them to make them feel better. Some even did the trend indoors, using treadmills or going up and down the stairs. Others ditched the walking altogether and filmed themselves doing other activities that give them serotonin like weight lifting or painting which made me think of my own hobbies that have been helping me cope with the pandemic.

In 2020, when the first lockdown was announced, I had no place to walk to or from anymore, because everything shifted online. I started scheduling my walks instead, just for the sake of walking because it meant I got to leave my room.

For 18 months, we had almost nowhere to go. Even other people’s homes, friends’ and family’s, were out of the question. The hobbies I took up during the lockdown started involving being outside, in open air and in parks, more often; I started roller skating, I joined a crocheting group that meets at Parc Jarry, I even tried to write my thesis in the park. I visited more parks in these 18 months than I had in my lifetime!

I fell out of the habit during the winter break, when days started to blend into one another. Now that everyone around me is testing positive—and I mean everyone—it seems more important than ever to pick up this habit once again, with everything closing up and the curfew in place.

I found myself looking up the benefits of walking more often. It turns out that walking in open air has been proven to increase blood flow and circulation in the body according to the United Kingdom organisation Walking for Health which claims that this activity’s added benefits include better sleep and improved self-esteem. WebMD states these benefits and more, recommending walking three days a week for 10 to 30 minutes. This seemed simple enough for me, so why not do it?

These 10 to 30 minutes we spend outside now, even when it’s -16 C out, feel like a small revolution against the virus. It’s a demonstration of our strength as people who choose to go out, in the middle of winter, for a walk…now with the added fun of taking part in a TikTok trend. So slip on your warm mittens, zip up your coat, hop into those boots, and take a walk with me.