Nordic walking smells

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On our Nordic Walking classes and tasters, we often stop to take notice of nature in some way. This is partly because we are a committed partner of the Green Social Prescribing Programme in Bristol and South Glos. Mainly, though, it is because our instructor team appreciates being in green spaces as much as we enjoy teaching Nordic Walking. 

One of the ‘nature reflections’ I like to include in a class is using our noses- becoming aware of the smells around us. This part of being human was often not talked about until many people found that having Covid blocked their ability to smell (anosmia) which affected them in many, perhaps surprising ways. 

Our noses are crowded with over 300 busy smell receptors. This sense of smell was vital to our early ancestors. For example, helping them smell damp earth and therefore search out water sources, or fertile land to plant crops; and to avoid possibly dangerous animals. 

In our brains, our sense of smell is the nearest to the hippocampus and amygdala. These areas of our brains hold our factual and emotional memories. I am flooded with joyful remembrance of my grandmothers in Sri Lanka by the scent of coconut oil which they used to condition their long hair. Memories of some miserable school experiences come with the aroma of boiled cabbage. People with dementia can be prompted to remember more by certain smells that are meaningful to them. 

Step into the emerging Spring season by deliberately using your remarkable nose for just 3 minutes each day when you are outdoors- whether you are Nordic Walking, walking to work, or gardening. Breathe through your nose only; slower and longer than you usually do.

Subitha Baghirathan

Director, Let’s Walk Bristol. 

10 April 2023.