Walking for health

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Why walk to improve your health?

Going for regular walks is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health. It's simple and it's free, yet it's often overlooked as a form of exercise. You don't have to walk for hours to feel the effects - a brisk 10-minute daily walk will give you many health benefits.

A recent report by the Ramblers and Macmillian Cancer Support outlined the health benefits of putting a walk into your routine. They found that a 30 minute walk 5 times a week, could save 37,000 lives each year and lead to nearly 300,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the University of Cambridge studied 334k people and found that just 20 minutes walking a day cut the risk of premature death by almost a third. 

Worryingly, four in ten middle-aged adults - that's six million Britons - are failing to achieve even one brisk walk a month according to Public Health England.  Another survey has shown that people in the UK are taking fewer journeys by foot than ever before. The University of Edinburgh study found that we have lost about 80 miles of walking per person per year, in just a decade. Car journeys and public transport now account for most short journeys that we take. 

This can be changed, and this is why... 

Regular walking can help you:

  • maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart
  • prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • strengthen your bones and muscles
  • improve your mental health and your mood
  • alleviate symptoms of stress
  • improve balance and coordination
  • feel more creative, able to problem-solve and more positive overall - it can even improve your memory
  • boost your immune system
  • ease joint pain and prevent arthritis - walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them
  • feel more connected to the world, feel more mindful and just slow down
  • recover from injury
  • have better sleep

Walking is a low impact exercise, it gets you outside in the fresh air - and maybe you'll even get some vitamin D if you’re lucky! It doesn’t require planning or preparation. It can be done in any weather. Walking doesn’t require a shower after and can be done in your lunch break or as part of your journey to or from work. Because of the ease of fitting walking into your schedule it means people tend to be more consistent with it. 

The more brisk the walking pace, the more benefits you will see. And if you walk with friends, the social interaction will help you feel more connected too which can boost your mood. Brisk walking, especially Nordic walking, is an effective cross training technique for athletes and sportspeople who need ultimate cardiovascular and endurance conditioning.

Forget all about the 10,000-steps-a-day mantra - did you know that this figure came from the marketing campaign of a Japanese pedometer. Just get up, get out and walk. Easy!

In some cases walking can be more effective than running. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, found that brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running. They studied people aged 18-80 over 6 years and found that walking reduced the risk of heart disease by 9.3%, while running reduced it by 4.5%. 

So, no matter what your age getting out into your local park for a walk with your friends can keep you healthy and stay sociable at the same time.

And the good news just keeps on coming! 30 minutes of brisk walking over five days could help you sleep more effectively, according to research by Oregon State University. Their study showed that walking helped participants sleep better and feel more alert during the day.

Even if you are not exercising at the moment due to injury or you are thinking of starting your fitness journey, starting with a walk is simple and will make you feel great straight away.

Sounds good to us! 

I’m in… now where do I start?

30 minutes is the aim but starting with just 10 minutes each day and slowly building up once you feel comfortable is sensible. The sooner you get started the sooner you’ll notice the difference in your mind and body! If your aim is to lose weight, the NHS estimates that 30 minutes of walking will help a 60kg (9.5 stone) person lose around 99 calories (plus all the other health benefits).

Top tips

  • Make sure you have good comfy footwear, wear suncream (if it's ever sunny enough!), and take a bottle of water.
  • Stay motivated by making walking a habit and incorporating it into your daily routine
  • Find your happy space - the mental health charity Mind found in their report Ecotherapy: The Green Agenda for Mental Health that country walks can reduce depression and raise self-esteem. The War Memorial Park is my local favourite place to walk with all those gorgeous trees and open spaces.
  • Mix up your routes to keep it more interesting
  • Join a walking group - for example, Glamoraks (ladies-only), a Nordic Walking group, Coventry Healthy Walks and Ramblers are just a few. Or set up your own group!

Stretching after walking

I know we talk about stretching all the time. There's a reason for that! Stretching is important after any exercise and walking is no exception.  

1.  Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch - place your leg onto a chair or low platform. Keep you knee bent and lean forward over your thigh. Gently try and straighten your leg a tiny amount and you should feel a stretch into the middle of your hamstrings.

2. Calf Raises - this will strengthen all the lower leg muscles. Hold onto something if required. Lift the heels off the floor as high as possible and slowly return back down to the floor. 

3. Quadriceps Stretch (standing) - pull your foot towards your bottom. You may want to hold onto something. You will feel a stretch to the quadricep muscles at the front of your thigh.

4. Heel Drop (soleus stretch) - stand with your toes on the edge of a step or a box, and knees bent slightly. Hold onto something stable for support if required. Drop your heels downwards. You should feel a stretch in the back of your legs, in the lower calf (known as the soleus).

Everyone is different, so if need more/different exercises or you aren't sure about how to do the stretches correctly, please book in with one of our therapists

What are you waiting for? Get outside! 

My challenge to you… go out for a 10 minute walk 5 times this week and just see how you feel. Let us know how you get on, and maybe Mabel and I will see you soon!

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