When I go swimming at our local Leisure Centre I am always amused by the people, arriving by car, who try and park as close to the entrance as possible. They are paying to go to the gym to exercise but they are trying to minimise the free walk from the car to the gym!
Most of us are not going to pay for a gym membership and spend hours on the treadmill or other equipment. But here’s a really simple step to improve your health:
Walk for twenty minutes at least four times a week.
Walking is simple, free and available for most people and abilities. It has several great benefits to improve your physical and mental health.
It strengthens your heart
Regular walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering your bad cholesterol and keeping blood pressure in check.
It reduces risk of disease
A walking habit can slash your risk of developing type two diabetes, asthma and some cancers.
It keeps weight in check
Walking is one of the easiest ways burn off excess calories.
It can help prevent dementia
Regular exercise reduces dementia risk by up to forty per cent.
It helps prevent osteoporosis
Walking stimulates and strengthens bones and may also help avoid conditions such as arthritis.
It boosts your vitamin D levels
If you’re walking outside in daylight, you’ll be boosting your body’s stores of vitamin D – a nutrient that’s hard to get from food, but that we can synthesise from exposure to sunlight. Many people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D and it’s a nutrient that plays a big role in everything from bone health to immunity.
It gives you energy
Far from draining your energy, walking increases your energy. A brisk walk boosts helps you to feel more alert and alive. It wakes up stiff joints and eases muscle tension so you feel less sluggish.
It makes you happy
The ability of exercise to boost mood is undisputed. Studies have shown brisk walking to be as effective as antidepressants in cases of mild to moderate depression. Getting active releases feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety.
So how do we make it part of our daily routine?
Three or four days a week I have to go to the office, which is a twenty-minute walk away. I could go in the car but instead I allow more time and walk there and back. That gives me two walks on those days. Some days I do cycle but it’s all exercise.
At weekends, we do try and get a walk in the countryside or near the coast. I love to walk in woodland and near water. If you can find a friend who will walk with you, all the better. You can chat about life, have a laugh and enjoy the journey together. If you walk alone that will give you time to think or engage in another activity like photography. Look out for birds, insects and plants you don’t recognise and try and identify them later on.
Whether you just start walking to work, walking in your lunch break or walking in the countryside, get out into the fresh air and walk several times a week. The benefits will surprise you!
‘Get up and walk.’