Ryan Henderson remembers late nights as a first-year student in Delaware Hall, mentally exhausted with a case of the jitters after a long study session.
Trying to fall asleep after cramming didn’t seem to work, so Henderson took a new approach.
“In the evening, I would just grab my jacket, and I’d go for a walk around campus. I called them my night walks,” he says.
The now-fourth-year DAN management student says this regular physical activity has helped him get a more fulfilling sleep after mentally strenuous periods like midterms.
“I can’t tell you how many times those [walks] really made a difference to me when it came to getting the proper sleep and then ultimately starting my next day totally fresh,” he adds.
The benefit of spending time outdoors for mental and physical well-being is something that’s gained quite a bit of attention. A Stanford study concerning urbanization and mental illness found that spending time in nature can increase mental well-being, while an article in the Guardian notes increased self-esteem among people who live closer to green spaces.
Luckily for Western University students, campus is filled with nature paths and tree-laden labyrinths to explore and de-stress.
The Student Success Centre, in partnership with the Wellness Education Centre, is taking advantage of this with their weekly event, Walk it Out Western. Every Thursday from 12 to 1 p.m., students, staff and faculty members meet at the WEC and embark on an outdoor walk throughout campus — sometimes with therapy dogs.
Rebecca Smith, scholars' programs and academic outreach coordinator, says the initiative is meant to bring people together and “add a little bit of walking wellness to their day.”
Smith has been at Western for over fifteen years in student affairs and as an undergraduate student herself. She notes that so often people walk around campus distracted by their cell phones.
“We have so many responsibilities, especially as students,” she explains. “Your priorities are being pulled in many different ways, so for me, just getting out in nature and having this opportunity to walk and talk and chat with other people, who many times I don’t know, just reminds me that we all need to slow down and enjoy the world around us.”
Like Henderson, Smith sees Western’s campus as an opportunity for wellness exercise. She says that the students who have been attending Walk it Out Western each week are grateful for getting to spend time outdoors, away from their classrooms, offices or labs.
Walk it Out Western has grown since its launch in the spring of 2017, but it is hoping to get even more students, faculty and staff involved before it ends for the winter months.
“Walking is such an underrated activity,” notes Henderson. “I think a lot of people don’t put a lot of emphasis on it when in actuality it helps to regulate your breathing, it gets you exposed to different sites and sounds.”
The crisp, fall air and colourful foliage won’t be on campus much longer. Walk it Out Western is a seasonal resource for mental well-being to be taken advantage of.
For more information on Walk it Out Western programming, visit their event page on the Western Events Calendar.