Spring Health: Getting back into the outdoors

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

If you've been thinking about increasing your levels of activity or not sure where to start, then consider walking. It's a simple and free way to improve your physical and mental wellbeing and can easily be incorporated into your daily routine; making it ideal to get yourself into a healthy routine for the summer ahead.

Here we've taken a look at the specific benefits that walking for exercise offers, to give you that little motivation.

Benefits of walking

Walking is a great, low-impact activity that most people can do - and if you have no exercise regime in place at the moment, it's a great way to bring more movement and activity into your day.

The NHS advises that walking can reduce the risk of a number of chronic illnesses, including:

  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • certain forms of cancer.

That's because walking gets your heart rate up, which gives your circulatory system a good workout. You'll also notice an improvement in joints and tension, as walking is a weight-bearing activity which means you're using and strengthening your bones as you walk.

You're also using muscles that support that skeletal structure, keeping arthritis and chronic joint pain at bay.

For many, the main highlight of walking is that, for such a simple activity, it's great at burning calories, making it a great starting activity for those trying to lose weight.

How much should I be walking?

The recommended amount is 10,000 steps a day or, according to the NHS, "adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and   
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)."

An hour of walking at a brisk pace burns about 300 calories. Although one person's 'brisk' might not be another's. So it's said that a brisk walk is a pace in which you can talk but you wouldn't be able to sing the words to a song...so no singing along to Whitney as you're power-walking around the park.

Mental health benefits

Walking isn't just good for the body - it's good for the brain, too, on a physical and chemical level.

It's also been proven that regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia by about 30 per cent.

Like any other exercise, walking also makes you feel happier and more positive, thanks to the release of endorphins when your body gets a workout.

By taking some time out of your busy life to walk and notice your surroundings, you can also bring your mental wellbeing back to a calm and centred state - leaving you happier, healthier and ready to face the rest of the year!

Make walking part of your daily routine

The average person only walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps-a-day, so getting up to the recommended 10,000 mark might seem a tall order. However it's probably easier than you think to increase the step count:

  1. Walking to work / or getting off the bus one or two stops earlier - if you live within a reasonable distance to your work then think about ditching the car and using your legs instead. Or if you get public transport, could you get off a few stops earlier and walk the rest. An extra 10 mins in the morning and after work all adds up.
  2. Starting off small - if you hate the thought of walking then by starting off small you can build up each week or month until you're able to go on a weekend trek without a second thought.
  3. Get others involved - find local walking groups or ask your friends if they fancied a walk after work or on the weekend. Take the kids, the dog or the other half and explore the area around you. 
  4. Every little helps - if you're spending the majority of your day at a desk then try and increase the step count by: taking the stairs instead of the lift, getting up to speak to someone instead of emailing and taking lunchtime walks.

>>Find out why it's important to implement a healthy lifestyle at work.

With walking not only being beneficial for your health, now is the perfect time to get on those trainers and start helping the environment (taking the car for short journeys use almost twice the CO2 per mile), your mental wellbeing and your fitness levels. Connect with friends and your surroundings and make walking part of your every day routine. 

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