The virtues of a daily walk
It often appears these days that walking for its own sake is an undervalued activity. The pure enjoyment of walking to appreciate our surroundings, to take the opportunity to think and meditate and to improve our general health and well-being can be sorely lacking in our daily lives. In this article Mrs Renata Good, our School Counsellor, writes about the benefits and gains to be made from a daily walk.
In 2014, Dr James Brown from the School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, told the British Science Festival in Birmingham that walking for half an hour a day could help prevent obesity and diabetes, lower risk of some cancers, relieve depression and anxiety, increase mobility and reduce the risk of hip fractures by 40 per cent among older adults. It also improved the ability to think and reason, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, cut arthritic pain by half and raised energy levels. According to Dr Brown, the same benefits were not seen in people running marathons, or who lift weights in the gym, or spend hours daily running on a treadmill.
Dr Carol Holland from Aston University’s Centre for Healthy Ageing, backed Dr Brown saying, ‘Thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day can reduce your risk of age-related diseases. It can also reduce your risk of cognitive decline.’
The value of walking has been well known prior to research determining its virtues. Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get active, lose weight and became healthier. It is often a much underrated form of exercise, but ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to be more active.
If going to the gym has become too time consuming, you have missed too many spinning classes, ‘bums and tums’ sessions are run at the wrong time of day for you, or you merely want to improve body and mind in a less full on way, then more walking may be the way forward for you. Are you out of practice and walking feels like too much of a task? Then start slowly and increase the amount of walking you do every week in respect of pace and distance in order to maximise the health benefits. Wear sensible shoes or trainers that adequately support your feet but don’t cause blisters. On longer walks you may need to consider waterproof clothing, water and snacks.
Whilst 10,000 steps a day for an adult is the figure to aim for, any increase in daily walking is good. From walking to school, work, the shops, part of your journey, walking with a friend, taking the dog out, going on a family stroll, or engaging in organised group walks, every step counts. This includes using stairs instead of lifts, perhaps walking to the next bus stop, walking to the railway station rather than taking the car or bus. To keep motivated find a friend who will accompany you, plan interesting walks during your days off, join a walking group. If it helps, use a pedometer which will let you know how many steps you have walked in a day. Start taking advantage of the longer daylight hours and warmer weather to go a bit further each time.
Walking in a group is not only a great way to start walking a greater distance but also to make friends and stay motivated. The UK’s National Parks organise guided tours for families over the holidays, there are Ramblers’ Associations, whilst Walking for Health schemes enable you to find organisations near you that arrange walks. Check it out on their website under the same name. Or you can just plan a route with family or friends. Happy walking!
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