It’s National Walking Month, the time to get outside, put your best foot forward and explore our wonderful surroundings. Walking is one of the easiest ways to boost your fitness – you can go at your own pace, it doesn’t cost a lot and just 15 minutes a day will bring results!
The benefits of walking include better heart and lung fitness, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, a reduced risk of stroke and diabetes, stronger bones, better balance and healthier joints and muscles. And that’s just the physical bit! Walking and being in nature are excellent for our emotional and mental wellbeing too (we think it’s no coincidence that National Walking Month is at the same time as Mental Health Awareness Month!).
So if you want to stride out but don’t know where to start, our six tips should get you walking right back to happiness:
1. Involve family or friends. Arranging to meet someone at a certain time will be the impetus you need, especially on those drizzly days when the sofa looks particularly inviting. If you have children, walking will benefit you all, but remember the golden rule. To anyone under the age of 20, ‘going for a walk’ is officially boring, so tell them it’s an adventure, a treasure hunt or that there’ll be an ice cream at the end – we didn’t say you can’t use a spot of bribery!
2. If friends and family aren’t nearby, join a local walking group. Walking organisation Ramblers has a UK-wide network of groups and events, while MeetUp.com is a fantastic way to find like-minded people. Many walking clubs are also on social media such as Instagram and Facebook, which is a good way to get a flavour of the group before you go. Most walkers are friendly but, if you think a group is a little clique-y, just try another one until you find a warm welcome.
3. Signing up for a charity walk or even a 5K fun run will boost your commitment, especially if you ask friends and colleagues for sponsorship! You’ll have to put in the training and, by the time the event arrives, you’ll be hooked. The ‘Couch to 5K’ app is popular, while parkrun is a series of weekly 5Ks held all over the country, with participants running, jogging or walking. Our chosen charity, St David’s Hospice in Newport, is holding a Moonlight Walk up Pen y Fan in July, which is manageable for most newbies.
4. Start on your doorstep. One of the great ironies of walking is that, all too often, we get in our cars and drive for an hour or more to a hiking hotspot. Local walks can be just as interesting, even if you live in an urban area, with all sorts of clues to our heritage and to nature that are harder to spot from the car. Setting off straight from home also makes a 20-minute stroll more manageable on those busy days you don’t have time for a full gym session – there’s no excuse not to!
5. Keep a walking journal. Write down the sights and sounds along the way, such as the trees and flowers you see and the birdsong you hear. Jot down your feelings at the end of the walk; ok, ‘tired’ might be listed but so too will ‘happy’ and ‘refreshed’! Once your fitness begins to build, you can start tracking distance and time with an app or smartwatch. The sense of achievement as these improve will be all the incentive you need to keep getting out there.
6. Walk to your health appointments! How often do you drive a mile to the GP surgery when, in rush hour traffic, it’s quite literally quicker to walk? Fed up of grumbling about hospital car parking? Depending on the nature of your condition, is it possible to park off-site and stroll in from there? The fresh air will see you arrive in a better frame of mind – and boost your patience if there’s a long queue!
As with any new form of exercise, see your GP or practice nurse before you start if you have an ongoing health condition. And even the healthiest of us have occasional niggles, especially in the knees if you do a lot of hill walking, so seeing a physio can help keep these in check and you in the Great Outdoors!
Inspired? Read our previous health and wellbeing articles for more ideas and call our team on 01633 266152 to ask about our cashback plans.