One of the simplest forms of exercise to get you more active, feeling healthier and contribute towards steady weight loss is to walk to health and wellness and hey, it’s FREE!
The reality is that walking for health is such an underrated form of exercise, but it is an ideal activity for people of all ages and fitness levels as a way to stay active. Regular walking has been proved to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma, and even some cancers. In this post, I’m going to encourage you to increase the amount of walking you do every week to help you maximise the health benefits that are so easy to achieve.
Let’s get prepared!
Unless you are going to go walking, as I do, up and down dales, good shoes or trainers should be fine when walking for health. Make sure they are comfortable, provide adequate support and won’t cause blisters as you stride out. Personally, I love to wear a good pair of hiking boots with good quality walking socks, but if you are only walking around town, then hiking boots might feel slightly ‘over the top’, so go with what feels best for you.
Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely, and choose thin layers so you can add or remove them depending on the conditions. When you head out on a longer walk, hopefully, 2 or 3 times a week, you need to make sure you take water, a healthy snack, a spare top, sunscreen, maybe a sunhat and have that all packed up in a backpack. I would definitely recommend you invest in a lightweight waterproof jacket and maybe waterproof trousers and buy a BPA free water bottle to avoid plastic water bottles. As I’ve already mentioned get yourself specialised, waterproof walking shoes/boots if you are going to take on more challenging routes.
Let’s get started
Slow and steady is my advice to build up your walking regime. To get the full health and wellness benefits from walking, you do need to walk with moderate-intensity, in other words, faster than a stroll. As you get stronger, aim to stride out and during your walk allow yourself to get a bit breathless maybe by climbing some hills or steps.
If you’ve not walked much before, then don’t walk too far initially, just build up your stamina and fitness first. Break up your activity into 10-minute chunks, and make sure you include periods of moderate intensity. Start every walk gently, gradually increasing your pace and when you feel ready, start walking a little faster and striding out. As you near the end of your walk, gradually slow down and allow yourself time to cool down, then finish off with a few gentle stretches, which will improve your flexibility.
Most of us walk around 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, so to set a goal to walk, say 10,000 steps isn’t really that daunting. If you don’t have a specific area to walk as I do here on the Malvern Hills, then you can achieve your daily 10,000 steps by walking to the shops, walking to work, walking during your lunch break, walking the dog or just get involved with a local walking group. Just make every step count!
Staying motivated and make walking a daily habit
The simplest way to walk more is to make walking a daily habit. Here are some ideas of how you can include walking in your daily routine:
- Walk to your workplace or park your car a few streets away or in a car park across town
- Walk to your local shops or into town
- Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalators
- Leave the car at home and walk any short journeys
- Walk your kids to school (they’ll massively benefit from this too!)
- Find a friend who is willing to walk with you on a regular basis
- Take a stroll with family or friends after dinner or lunch
The key is to make walking part of your daily activity.
You might enjoy using a Phone App or something like a Fitbit to keep you motivated and focused on reaching your daily goal. I use MotionX to track my walks on the Malvern Hills, but there are loads of different apps like ‘Map My Walks‘ that will help to keep you on track. Wrist devices are also great so choose something that will work for you and keep you going!
Keep things varied
You don’t have to travel to the countryside to find a rewarding walk, so be creative to add some variety. Towns and cities can offer some really interesting walks, that include parks, heritage trails, canal towpaths, riverside paths, commons, woodlands, heaths and nature reserves. For inspiring walks near you do a search on Google. Here in the UK, this is a great site to visit Walks & Walking Routes.
Join a walking group
This is a great way to stay motivated and meet like minded people. A great website to check out is Walking for Health’s Walk Finder as it allows you to search for organised walks near you. Quite a few of the walks are aimed at people who want to become more active. The Ramblers also organise group walks for people of all ages, and for all levels of fitness. Their website has plenty of information about locally organised walks in towns, cities and the countryside. During the holiday’s you’ll also find that National Parks run free guided walks for the whole family, so do some research and you’ll find plenty of websites to inspire you.
Another way to keep walking regularly is to become a volunteer and promote walking in your community and help others get active, and Walking for Health is the UK’s largest network of health walk schemes. Volunteering is a great way to keep active, make new friends, explore your local area and help others lead a more active lifestyle.
Just do IT!
In just 10 minutes you can walk 1,000 steps! Use a Pedometer, Phone App or Wrist Device to keep track of your steps and keep things fun. Use your tracking device to work out your average daily steps and then begin to add extra steps as you build up your stamina and love for walking. Ideally, walk with a purpose every day, or at least 5 days a week and aim to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps every day. Add this activity to ‘clean eating‘ and you will be amazed at how quickly you start to hit your fitness and weight loss goals.