Scientific research has repeatedly proven that simply going for a walk on a regular basis can massively reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses such as asthma, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It’s a simple solution and is ideal for people of all ages, particularly those who are a little less into more exasperating ‘sports’. It doesn’t cost anything to go for a walk. Simply put, the benefits of walking are incredible – it is without doubt one of the easiest ways to get fresh air, strengthen muscles, and lose weight.
All you really need to get started with regular walking is a reasonably comfy pair of shoes or trainers. Research has shown that the average 60kg person will burn 75 calories if they gently stroll for thirty minutes. 99 calories will be burned if the person walks somewhat more briskly (3mph), and a whopping 150 calories will be burnt from a fast walk of 4mph (Department of Health, 2004).
If you’re new to regular walking don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Start off with a slow stroll and gradually build up speed and distance as and when you feel ready. To get the full health benefits of regular walking though, you do eventually need to be moving fast enough to raise your heart rate, and ideally to break into a sweat. A good way to tell if you’ve reached the right level of intensity is when you’re unable to sing the lyrics to the current song on your MP3 player!
When dressing for a walk wear loosely fitted, light and comfortable clothing. If walking to the workplace, simply wear comfortable shoes or trainers with your usual office gear and change them when you arrive. If you’re planning a longer walk, it is wise to take a small rucksack or bag containing a few essential items -a bottle of water, for example to stay hydrated, some healthy snacks (fruit, perhaps) spare clothes, suntan lotion (if you’re lucky enough to be somewhere you’d need it!) and maybe even a hat. It is often worth investing in a good quality waterproof coat if you’re going to keep on gaining the benefits of regular walking, don’t let light drizzle sway you from your goals!
A good aiming point is to try to walk around 10,000 steps a day. The average person walks around 3,500 steps a day by default anyway, so it’s really not that big of a challenge. Build up speed gradually throughout the walk, not overdoing it so that you become uncomfortable, and then slow your pace down towards the end. Do a couple of muscle stretches when you finish to make sure you don’t wake up with aches and pains, and become unable to walk the next day. This will also help build up flexibility.
Staying motivated is a massive part of continuing with regular walking. The raincoat will rid you of excuses if the weather is not on your side, and perhaps consider joining or starting up a walking group so you don’t have to go it alone. Look for a local ramblers group as they meet regularly and will always remind you why you’re doing it and the amazing benefits of walking. Turn your walking into a habit and you will feel the benefits of walking in no time at all.
Walk whenever possible; walk to work, to the supermarket, to meet the children at school and walk back with them. Use the stairs, rather than the lift. Meet with a friend regularly for a walk and a catch up, instead of a sit down for drinks and food. Mix up the scenery for your walks, try a woodland one time, get a manual treadmill for rainy days, go for a beach or lake walk, or walk through a different part of the city for a change.