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Walk at night

  • In 1994 there was an earthquake in Los Angeles and the power went out. There were many calls to the emergency services to warn of a huge, alien-looking silver cloud in the sky, but it turned out to be the Milky Way. It turns out that these people had never seen it because the light pollution of the city made it impossible to see it.
  • At around the same time, a group of friends in Australia decided to walk in the outback at night to exercise because they didn’t have time during the day. But they soon discovered that what affected them most about going walking was not the improvement in their physical condition, but how it reconnected them with nature, the silence and the velvet darkness of the night.
  • Today up to 99% of Americans and Europeans live below the skies where the Milky Way can barely be seen due to light pollution. Some people never manage to adjust their vision to night vision mode.
  • However, light is a fundamental human need. Research shows that its deficiency could be linked to depression, insomnia, obesity, reduced immunity and heart disease. Being exposed to light at night affects circadian and neuroendocrine physiology, potentially accelerating tumour growth. Israeli scientists have shown that where there is more light pollution, there are more cases of breast cancer.
  • Even low levels of nighttime light can reduce brain plasticity and interfere with the normal structure of brain cells.
  • It is believed to inhibit the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. Walking at night helps us sleep because it acts on our homeostatic sleep drive. It helps to recalibrate our internal clock according to the light and dark cycles which we have lived with for millennia.
  • Walking at night has risks. It is best to choose a flat route and avoid a wet night to avoid slipping. You can see more in a clear place without trees.
  • The first time you go out it is better to take a known route, which you have already done during the day, and leave just before nightfall to let your eyes get used to the dark. If you go out at night, sit in the dark for 20 minutes before you start to let your eyes adjust. It is recommended to take the same round trip route to have references on the way back when it is very dark.
  • And finally, some practical advice. Bring a headlamp with red light, and a light dimmer to keep your hands free. But only use it if necessary, the idea is to let your eyes get used to the darkness. There are special binoculars to see the sky at night. Carry a trekking stick to prevent falls, a thermos with a hot drink or water and charge your mobile phone. To see more wildlife, it is best to go out with a small group. Sound moves over a greater distance at night so you can hear more animals. And finally, go slowly, this walk is for enjoying what you experience, so there’s no hurry. In Spain, the Star Tourism company organises astro tourism.

Source: 52 Ways to Walk: Annabel Streets – Bloomsbury Publishing