Walking can offer calm amidst chaos of Coronavirus

9 Apr 2020

Photo: Kaylene McKay (left) leads Victoria Walks' Let's Walk program in partnership with the City of Greater Bendigo in Kangaroo Flat September 2019.  

We know that walking is playing an important role for many right now.

The daily walk has become one of the few options we have to escape our homes (now workspaces and schoolhouses too!), to get much-needed exercise, to connect with neighbours and others outside our households, and of course to enjoy nature.

We asked Victoria Walks' staffer Kaylene McKay to tell us how sticking to her walking routine in her new home of Bendigo has helped her navigate the early weeks of Australia's Coronavirus outbreak.

1. In what ways was walking important to you normally (before the pandemic?)
I walk to get my heart pumping and breathe in fresh air. It makes me happy and allows me to clear my head and stay well.

2. How far / often do you usually walk?
I usually walk daily for 5km at a time. I like to have walked 15,000 steps before I go to bed.

3. Do you usually walk alone / with others - please describe.
I often walk with a friend but now I walk alone, and I love it. If I feel like connecting with a friend, we will use Facebook messenger to chat, while we walk in our own neighbourhoods. It’s not the same but it makes for good conversations and walking.

4. Has the importance or value you place on walking changed since the coronavirus pandemic?
The importance of walking daily has definitely changed since coronavirus. I was emotional and unable to think clearly when we first started staying home to work. I couldn’t focus on simple tasks without crying. I felt a heightened sense of anxiety and helplessness.

Fortunately, I sought support, talked to friends and the Victoria Walks' team, and I was not alone in my response to COVID 19. I was able to settle and concentrate on simple daily tasks that lifted my spirits, like walking. I quickly realised that in the flurry of overwhelming emotions I had stopped taking my daily walk.

I started walking again, and just walked, explored, talked to some kangaroos, smiled and checked in on strangers who were also walking or sitting on their front porch. A simple smile can convey so much. I haven’t missed a day since then.

6. Has it changed the way you walk?
Yes, I now set out on a walk, just knowing I want to walk at least 5km at a brisk pace, and I just walk, every day. Of course, I choose places where I can comply with the government guidelines of safe distancing (walking at least 1.5m from others at all times), but that’s quite easy in Bendigo.

7. How do you feel before you set out on a walk now? And how do you feel during and after the walk?
Before each walk I feel a sense of excitement to know I’ll soon be out in the fresh air and greenery, and I wonder what surprises I’ll find in my neighbourhood. During the walk I feel strong and grateful to feel well and happy in these uncertain times. After the walk I feel energised and motivated to fill my day with work and other activities that boost my wellbeing like a cardio session in the back yard, Zoom yoga, meditation or a chat with a friend.