Walking is a great way to get more active and has many health and wellbeing benefits. It is a perfect form of exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels – it’s free and one of the easiest ways to get fitter.
Regular walking has many physiological and psychological health benefits. Studies have shown that active-walking can help with weight loss and weight management; it can help reduce anxiety, improve your mood, and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and even some cancers.
Before you begin walking outdoors, I recommend you invest in pair of suitable walking shoes or trainers. Make sure that these are comfortable and provide adequate support to the foot and ankle. This will help to reduce issues such as; blisters and joint pain. If you start taking regular, longer walks you may want to invest in a waterproof jacket and some walking boots for more challenging routes.
Start slowly and try to build your walking regime gradually. You can start with a strolling pace and then progress to brisk walking and eventually fast walking. To get the health benefits from walking, you need to be walking at a moderate-intensity (aerobic activity). In other words, it needs to be faster than a stroll. Moderate-intensity, aerobic activity means you are walking fast enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat.
Try to walk 10,000 steps a day. Most of us walk between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day anyway, so reaching 10,000 isn’t as daunting as it might sound. If to begin with, you can only walk fast for a couple of minutes, that’s fine. Don’t overdo it on your first day. You can increase your pace and distance of your walking routes gradually over time.
Here are some tips on how you can include walking into your daily routine:
- Walk part of your journey to work.
- Walk the children to school.
- Leave the car behind for short journeys.
- Do a regular walk with a friend.
- Walk to the shops.
- Go for a walk during your breaks at work.
- Use the stairs instead of the lift.
- Go for a stroll with family or friends after dinner.
Mix it up to add variety
Pick interesting routes, such as countryside walks with the family, park walks etc. Just remember to take it slowly at first, but then build up to a faster pace as your fitness improves. You can also progress on to Hiking, if you want to challenge yourself further.
Join a walking group
Consider joining an organised walking group, for example a Ramblers group. Walking in a group is a great way to start walking consistently, make new friends and stay motivated.
Set yourself a goal
You can set small goals i.e walk 1,000 steps in around 10 minutes. I also recommend you use a tracking device or app to measure the number of steps and distance you have walked.
Pedometers are a fun way to keep track of your walking. Use a pedometer to work out your average daily steps and then start adding those extra steps and distance. This will give you something to aim towards and ensures you keep to your regular, planned walking sessions.
Get yourself outdoors and start walking and maximise the health benefits. From walking to the shops or part of your journey to work, to walking the dog and organised group walks, try to make every step count. The important thing is to stay motivated, enjoy your walks, and make it a lifestyle habit.