- Getting started walking
- Tips for walking with diabetes
- How often should I exercise?
- How many calories will I burn?
- Is walking a good workout?
- Warm up for walking
- Walking for health
- Pregnancy and walking
- Walking can help our overweight youngsters
- Walking helps in fight against obesity
- Avoid travel chaos: walk to work!
- Diet Coke nutrition info
- 10 reasons to take up walking
- Walking facts
- Finding motivation
- How a good walk can help with stress
- A cliff with a view: New Quay walk
- St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan
- Bawsey Church near King's Lynn, Norfolk
- Walking Facts and Figures
- Rambling: how to get started
- Footpath Erosion
- Advice and Information for Leaders of Rambles
- An Introduction to the Hadrian's Wall Path
- An Introduction to the Pennine Way
- An Introduction to the Coast to Coast Walk
- An Introduction to the Cotswold Way
- Public Rights of Way FAQ
- A Guide to Walking in Britain
- More Than a Walk
Walking for health
"I have two doctors, my left leg and my right."
George Trevelyan, 1913
"Walking is the nearest activity to perfect exercise".
Professor J Morris and Dr. Adrianne Hardman. Sports Medicine 1997
There's no doubt about it - walking is good for you. It's good for your heart, it's good for your lungs, it's good for the muscle and bone growth of your children and it's good for your feeling of wellbeing! Strong scientific evidence now supports the many benefits to health of regular walking. Studies show that walking can:
- Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce high cholesterol and improve blood lipid profile
- Reduce body fat
- Enhance mental well being
- Increase bone density, hence helping to prevent osteoporosis.
- Reduce the risk of cancer of the colon
- Reduce the risk of non insulin dependant Diabetes
- Help to control body weight
- Help osteoarthritis
- Help flexibility and co-ordination hence reducing the risk of falls
Whether you want to walk to improve your general health, to keep fit, to control your weight, or perhaps to recover from a period of ill-health, walking can help. It is something that can be done with children or older family members, it need cost you nothing, and can fit in with any lifestyle, income bracket, culture or domestic circumstance.
Walking for general health and longevity
Regular participation in physical activity (like walking) is associated with reduced mortality rates for both older and younger adults. In other words, walkers live longer!
In particular, walking has a high impact on cardiovascular disease. Fit and active individuals have around half the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to unfit inactive people. This level of risk is similar to smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol in causing heart disease.
Fit walkers are less likely to fall and suffer injuries such as hip fractures because the bones are strengthened; less likely to sustain injury because joints have a better range of movement and muscles are more flexible; less prone to depression and anxiety; tend to be good sleepers; and are better able to control body weight.
For general health, experts recommend accumulating a
total of 30 minutes of brisk walking on most,
preferably all days of the week .
Regular walking, like all ‘aerobic' exercise, can have a dramatic effect on cardiorespiratory fitness or ‘aerobic power'. Regular exercise carried out three times a week for 30 minutes or more at the right intensity will result in increases of aerobic power.
The intensity of walking for fitness benefits varies according to the age and fitness of the individual, but generally, ‘brisk is best'.
A simple way to work out how briskly you should walk is to aim to walk "fast without overexertion". You should just about be able to hold a conversation while you are walking - the ‘talk test'.
For the more technically minded, you should aim for the ‘training zone. To calculate this, take your age away from 220. Then try to walk so that your heart rate is at least 45% of this figure. So for example a 40 year old would be aiming to have a heart rate of at least 81 beats per minute (220-40 x 0.45).
Even 10- minute brisk walks can increase fitness, provided that they are brisk enough. One study at Loughbrough University found that women walking continuously for 30 minutes 5 days a week had almost identical increases in fitness as women who split their 30 minutes into three 10-minute walks. Perhaps even more encouraging was that the short walkers lost more weight and reported greater decreases in waist circumference than the long walkers.
Brisk is best - walk fast without over-exertion
Walking for weight control
Control of body weight occurs when the calories taken in as food are balanced with the calories expended through walking and other physical activities. The key issue for weight control is to maximise the total volume of calories used, (at any intensity) and to combine this with healthy eating.
Walking one mile can burn up at least 100kcal and walking two miles a day, three times a week, can help reduce weight by one pound every three weeks.
Walking also alters fat metabolism so that fat is burned up instead of sugars - helping to reduce weight.
Walk as much as possible - every little bit counts
Walking and mental health
Walking makes you feel good! Walking has been shown to improve self esteem, relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improve mood. Walking, particularly in pleasant surroundings, and with other people, offers many opportunities for relaxation and social contact.
Walking to regain health after illness
Many GPs are now "prescribing" gentle walking for people suffering from a range of conditions. In fact there are few people on most GPs lists who would not benefit from walking more.
If you have been ill, always take your doctor's advice if it differs from what is written here. It is important not to increase the heart rate too suddenly. At first, you may be able to walk only a very short way at a gentle pace, but if you do this regularly you will soon increase your capacity for distance and pace.
One member of the Ramblers' Association left hospital in a wheel chair after undergoing heart surgery and a couple of years later walked from Land's End to John O'Groats.
Some Ramblers Groups are working together with GP practices to provide short walks for people recovering from illness. Other Groups (for example, the Friends Group in Essex) are providing a programme of walks for people who need short walks for a variety of reasons, such as having young children or being elderly. Ask at our office for details of the Groups in your area.
Walking makes you feel good
What about children?
The majority of studies of young people indicate declining participation in physical activity. Only half of 11-16 year olds currently walk for ten minutes a day. Children in Britain walk 50 miles a year less than they did a decade ago. Around 20% of kids can be classed as overweight. TV, computers, cultural changes and fears for children's safety out of doors play a large part.
Between 1986 and 1996 the proportion of under 17 year olds walking to school fell from 59% to 49% . British schools offer less physical education than do those in any other European country.
The Health Education Authority recommends that "all young people should participate in physical activity of at least moderate intensity for one hour per day...Examples of moderate intensity activities for all young people may include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, most sports or dance".
Walking offers a great way to help kids get the active habit. If parents express excitement about the prospect of a walk in the countryside, they are more likely to transmit this feeling to their children. It's important to treat the walk as an exploration or adventure and to go at the child's pace, no matter how often they want to stop and look at things; take treats to eat and plenty to drink; and head for some landmark that will appeal to them such as a castle, a playground, an ice cream van or a boating pond. If children experience walking as part of a fun activity they are more likely to want to go again.
Walking - healthy and fun for all the family
Ideas for town and city dwellers
- Britain's towns and cities are full of lovely parks which are a pleasure to walk in and there's always one not far away. Or, put on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk around the block (or three or four blocks) where you live.
- If you travel to work or to take your children to school, try walking part of the journey either there or back. You could get off the train or bus a stop earlier or park your car further away. If this makes timing difficult, you could try doing it just one day a week.
- As well as town and city parks which are sometimes quite small and formal, there are often country parks on the outskirts of towns. These tend to be more varied areas where you can walk a longer distance in conditions more akin to the countryside. Find out from your local authority where these areas are.
- If there's no alternative, you can walk on a machine at your local gym. But this bears no comparison to the fresh air and beauty you will find in the countryside or even in a park which has such a positive effect on a person's feeling of wellbeing and subsequent psychological health. Many local authorities now run health walks schemes. Details are normally available from your doctors' surgery or from a library or health centre.