Daily Express

Walk this way...

Let’s face facts – lock­down walks were more ap­peal­ing in sum­mer. How­ever, with a few tips and tricks, this sim­ple ex­er­cise can boost mood, in­crease fit­ness and, yes, even be fun when it’s cold out­side, says Lizzie Catt

- Lifestyle · Healthy Living · Fitness · Lifehacks · Spotify

While the first lock­down saw the na­tion dis­cover lo­cal routes and cor­ners of the coun­try­side, win­ter weather has made the prospect of re­vis­it­ing those lovely paths some­what less ap­peal­ing. But with gyms and ex­er­cise classes shut in­def­i­nitely, walk­ing is an easy and free way to get some ex­er­cise and fresh air.

Ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist Tom Cowan (tcowan.co.uk) is a big ad­vo­cate of walk­ing for men­tal and phys­i­cal health. A brisk walk, he ex­plains, raises the heart rate and pro­vides a stren­u­ous enough aer­o­bic work­out to im­prove car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness in most adults.

If you can hold a con­ver­sa­tion but don’t have enough puff to be able to sing the words to a song, you’re walk­ing at the cor­rect pace.

When done cor­rectly, walk­ing re­duces the risk of de­vel­op­ing nu­mer­ous health con­di­tions, says Tom, in­clud­ing high blood pres­sure, high choles­terol, stroke and coro­nary heart dis­ease. And be­cause walk­ing is low im­pact, it’s easy on the joints but will still im­prove bone den­sity.

Start and end with a five to 10 minute warm up/cool down and stretch. Also, check in with your GP be­fore start­ing a new rou­tine.

Get in the swing

It is tempt­ing to shove your hands into pock­ets when it’s cold, but Tom rec­om­mends swing­ing your arms. This tech­nique is used by power walk­ers to in­crease speed and brings more mus­cle groups into play, in­creas­ing heart rate and with it the chance of break­ing a sweat. Use in­ter­vals – fast walk­ing mixed with slower pe­ri­ods – to im­prove your speed un­til you no longer need the re­cov­ery in­ter­vals.

Pick one route and time your­self, then revisit it over the weeks and aim to slowly knock time off as your fit­ness im­proves.


Lots of us wanted to learn new skills, get fit and read more dur­ing lock­down – so why not do it all at the same time?

“I used walk­ing as a chance to lis­ten to au­dio­books and in the first lock­down, I lis­tened to Span­ish lessons on Spo­tify,” says Tom. “I also make calls to fam­ily and friends, which ben­e­fits my psy­cho­log­i­cal health as well.”

Step it up

Tom rec­om­mends those pressed for time to in­crease their step count by in­cor­po­rat­ing walk­ing into their work­ing day by tak­ing calls on the move. Re­quest­ing a phone-only meet­ing and get­ting out­side could make a big dif­fer­ence to your daily step count.

Six legs bet­ter than two

Dog own­ers al­ready know that daily walks are not op­tional. “If you don’t have a dog, you could walk a friend’s dog or walk to­gether, or visit a dog-walk­ing web­site like bor­rowmy­doggy.com,” says Tom.

The RSPCA and lo­cal dog res­cue cen­tres both run dog-walk­ing pro­grammes, too.

Get com­pet­i­tive

Set­ting up a walk­ing chal­lenge with friends or col­leagues is great mo­ti­va­tion. If you have a mixed abil­ity group, set a team step goal or sign up for a char­ity walk.

Lots of char­i­ties are ask­ing peo­ple to fundraise with in­di­vid­ual walks and runs dur­ing the pan­demic. Just don’t push your­self too hard to keep up, and en­sure your tar­gets are re­al­is­tic, says Tom.

Pole po­si­tion

Nordic walk­ing poles are pop­u­lar with walk­ers in the coun­try­side and have been crop­ping up on the streets of towns and cities with good rea­son.

Walk­ing with poles en­gages the mus­cles of the up­per body and trans­forms walk­ing into a whole­body ex­er­cise with ben­e­fits more akin to jog­ging. This can help any­one who’s un­com­fort­able run­ning or has been ad­vised not to due to weight, joint is­sues or age.

Walk­ing can help you to com­bat high blood pres­sure and coro­nary heart dis­ease

Worth the weight

Weighted back­packs are also grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity with those want­ing to get the most out of their walk, says Tom. Pile some books into a com­fort­able back­pack but make sure it fits prop­erly so you don’t in­jure your­self. Or try walk­ing while hold­ing light hand weights to give your­self a chal­lenge.

Be so­cial

Meet­ing up for ex­er­cise with one per­son is per­mit­ted un­der cur­rent guide­lines and can make a real dif­fer­ence, says Tom. It will make your walk feel like an event in­stead of an­other chore and give you much-needed so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

Blue flat cap, £51.95, Kan­gol at hat­sand­caps.co.uk

Tweed hat, £22, uk.tommy.com

Baker boy with chain, £12.99, re­served.com

Grey flat cap, £15, riveris­land.com

PU black cap, £18, riveris­land.com

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