I’ve recently become a convert to the benefits of walking. For me there are three main benefits to walking: environmental, physical, and mental.
London makes walking an easy choice with its dense size and it’s intense congestion. Within central London it is often not only better for the environment to walk but much faster. Buses and taxis get caught in London’s tough downtown traffic, meaning you can forget about getting anywhere by road during rush hour. The underground (or the Tube as it’s called here) might seem like a faster option but getting two and from an underground platform can take just as long as the subway ride itself due to the immense size of some of the underground stations. The time and distance you walk using the underground can actually come close to walking between stations if you’re only going a stop or two (and that’s without having to stand in queues or wait for the train).
Reducing public (and private) vehicle transportation in downtown London can have a bigger positive affect than you might expect. Currently, London’s Oxford Street has some of the highest rates of air pollution in the world. This is due in large part to the approximately 270 buses that run down it every hour. Efforts are currently underway to reduce vehicle traffic and make the street pedestrian friendly.
The physical benefits of walking are numerous as well. From strengthening your heart muscle to helping prevent dementia and osteoporosis, walking helps improve a multitude of physical aspects. If done at a rigorous pace it can also be better at reducing heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure than running.
The mental benefits have also been significant to me. I’ve started walking home from work occasionally, about 6 miles, and noticed a huge impact on my day. Walking forces me to disconnect from my phone, which I am guilty of spending too much time on, helping my eyes rest after a full day of working at a computer. It also helps me feel energized and relaxed by the time I get home whereas the crowded and often rowdy bus rides leave me feeling drained and grumpy.
Overall, I hope to continue to make walking a more frequent means of transportation for myself to help not only with environmental sustainability but my own personal sustainability as well.