PUT YOUR BEST FOOT
Step into the New Year with confidence with our low down on walking for health
Whether you are young or old, fit or unfit, most of us would benefit from taking more exercise – and one of the cheapest and most accessible forms of all is waiting for you just outside your front door...
“The great thing about walking is that it’s suitable for almost everyone; whatever your age or ability,” says Des de Moor, Ramblers Senior Everyday Walking Officer. “You can walk wherever you are and whatever your budget, making it one of the most accessible ( and popular) forms of exercise around.
“Walking is also a fun activity that people of all ages can do together; enabling you to spend quality time with friends and family, from children to grandparents alike.”
One of the key benefits of walking is the positive affect it can have on our wellbeing and health.
“Physical activity, such as walking, can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, obesity, the most common type of diabetes and even many cancers,” says Des. “Exercising outdoors is also really good for your mental health; helping to clear your mind and boost your mood.
“When combined with a healthy, balanced diet, walking is an excellent way to control your weight by using up energy and burning calories too,” he continues.
“Walking for 20 minutes on a flat even surface helps to burn around 100 calories – that’s the same as swimming for 10minutes, playing football for 12 minutes or doing aerobics for 16minutes. The more walking you can build into your regular routine, the more calories you can burn.”
Unlike some forms of exercise, walking is gentle on the joints, requires no expensive equipment and can be undertaken at a time convenient to you.
“The good thing about walking is you can do it anywhere, at any time, without any specialist equipment and it’s completely free – all you have to do is take a step outside,” says Des.
“In fact, walking is a great way to get back to fitness as it places very low strain on the body compared to some other forms of exercise, making it suitable for almost anyone to start.”
Andit’s easy to integrate more walking into your life with minimum effort...
“Replacing short journeys ( which you would usually make by car or public transport) with walking is a really good way to build walking into your regular routine, and can help you save money too,” says Des. “Try walking to work or school, or to the local shops.”
As well as the advantages walking can have for your health, it also has many additional benefits too...
“Walking can be a great way to explore your local community,” says Des. “Often when people start walking they discover beautiful places that they never knew existed, even if they’ve lived in an area for years.
“Walking can also be a great social activity. Many people find that walking in a group provides the motivation they need to keep walking regularly, turning exercise from a chore into a fun afternoon out with friends. There also seems to be something about walking that helps to breakdown barriers, helping people to open up and talk more freely.”
Although no specialist equipment is needed for walking, it is essential that you dress comfortably, with suitable clothing for the weather and appropriate footwear for the terrain.
“The most important thing when walking is that you have comfortable footwear,” says Des. “A sturdy pair of shoe sort rainers that support your feet is fine when you’re starting out. If you’re walking in the wintertime also make sure that you have warm layers with you and a good coat to protect you from the rain.
“As you progress to longer walks, especially out in the countryside, you may want to invest in a proper pair of walking boots and a good waterproof jacket to keep you comfortable and dry.”
Some people like to track their walking progress using a pedometer. Widely available in sports shops and online, they can usually be bought for less than £ 10.
“Apedometerisasmallgadget which clips onto your waistband and counts the number of steps youtake,” explainsDes.“Theycan be useful if you want to monitor how far you’re walking each day. Youcanstartbyseeinghowmany stepsyouwalkinanormaldayand then slowly build the number up over time.”
Alternatively, if youdon’twant to invest in a pedometer, you can monitor your progress by keepingarecordofhowmuchtimeyou spend walking.
“The chief medical officer recommends that people do 150 minutes of physical exercise a week, whichcaneasilybebroken down into 30 minutes, five days a week,” saysDes.“Keepingtrackof how much time you spend walking eachdayisagoodwayforpeople to monitor their progress. If you’renewtowalking, don’tforce yourself to do too much at first – start slowly and build up to the 30- minute target.”
Withamyriadofaccessiblewalking routes to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
“The great thing about Britain is that it has an abundance of places to walk – whether you’re in a city, the countryside or on the coast,” says Des. “There is a vast network of public footpaths which you can walk on, as well as pavements, localparksandpublic woodlands.”
And, with maps and guidebooks widely available online, or in your local bookshoporlibrary, findingascenicwalkingtrailnear you is easy.
“There is likely to be a large range of walking booksandmaps availablefromyourlocallibraryor bookshop and you can often pick uplocalwalkingleafletsfromyour libraryortouristinformationcentre too,” says Des.
“Also, the Ramblers has just launched an online library of walking routes with a variety of differentwalksacrossthecountry to suit all tastes and abilities. You will need to be a member of the Ramblerstoaccessthefulllibrary but hundreds of short routes are available to everyone for free and are a perfect resource if you are just starting out and looking for interesting places to walk.”
Ifyouwantspendmoretimewalking, butyoudon’twanttostepout alone, why don’t you try finding your feet with a walking group?
As part of a walking group you’ll meet lots of like- minded people, be guided by an experienced leader, discover walking routes you probably don’t know exist – and, of course, there’s