Mental movements: How long-distance walking influences reflection processes among middle-age and older adults

Scand J Psychol. 2021 Jun;62(3):365-373. doi: 10.1111/sjop.12721. Epub 2021 Mar 14.


By providing a distinctive room for reflection, long-distance walks can help people similar to professional counselling. To understand reflection processes' influence on mental health, a framework focusing on personal transformations, specifically through the concept of liminality, can be used. Through nine semi-structured interviews with middle-aged and older long-distance walkers, this study answers the following question: How do middle-aged and older adults experience long-distance walking, and how do their experiences influence their reflective process? Four themes emerged during the analysis: (1) overcoming strain and achieving a sense of capability; (2) simplicity in obligations and having the time to pursue emotionally difficult experiences; (3) solitariness and reflection on oneself; and (4) calmness and embracing thoughts. These findings illustrate how going on long-distance walks may be similar to entering a liminal, or transformational, space. The findings show how long-distance walks can be helpful, or perhaps even therapeutic, in situations where personal transformation is required.

Keywords: Long-distance walking; adults; liminality; older people; reflection processes; transformations.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Walking*