In these testing times it has never been more important to live well and stay healthy. Unfortunately current evidence shows that overweight people are more likely to become seriously ill and be admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 compared to those with a healthy BMI.
The more active we are, the greater the physical and mental health benefits. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. Research shows that people who fit moderate intensity activity such as walking into their daily schedule burn more energy than those who make weekly visits to the gym.
One of the activity options suggested by NHS Live Well advice is that adults aged 19-64 should aim for 150 minutes or more of moderate intensity activity, such as brisk walking, every week. Just a 20-minute brisk walk every day would almost meet that weekly target and there are lots of ways to ease yourself into making walking a daily habit.
Leaving the car at home and walking the kids to and from school is an easy one. Visiting the local shops on foot, taking the stairs instead of the lift, going for a stroll after dinner, walking part of your journey to work, arranging to meet up with a family member or a friend for a regular walk.
You can tell if you’re walking briskly if you can still talk but cannot sing the words to a song. A brisk walk covers about 3 miles an hour, so is faster than a stroll.
To make things more fun, you could download the Active 10 app from the NHS website which allows you to track how much and how fast you have walked. To keep things interesting, it gives you goals to work towards and rewards your progress. Just pop your phone in your pocket and away you go.
Walking in a group is a great way to make new friends and stay motivated. There’s likely to be walking groups near to you, and Britain’s walking charity Ramblers organises group walks for people of all ages, background and levels of fitness. You could also consider finding a local green gym that holds classes outdoors.
The physical and mental health benefits of walking are now well known, and walking while feeling connected to nature enhances these. In response to seeing how people benefited from the great outdoors during lockdown, the UK may trial a scheme where GPs and other health providers will be able to prescribe walks and other outdoor activities such as tree planting to help ease the post-Covid burden on the NHS.
Joining a local nature conservation group could be a great way to help protect an area you care about while boosting your outdoor activity and meeting like-minded people. You could also help the natural environment while enjoying the outdoors by joining or forming a local litter pick – the Keep Britain Tidy website has some ideas as well as Coronavirus guidance on collecting litter safely. Our new Litter Heroes reusable bag is available for pre-order here.
And when you have time, take a proper hike. Hiking is particularly good for mental health. There’s nothing to beat the feel good factor of switching off and relaxing which hiking unconsciously allows us to do. We have an amazing collection of walks across the UK for you to choose from.
The good news is that more of us than ever before are taking to the great outdoors – use of the free Greenspace layer in the OS Maps app that makes finding places for leisure across England, Scotland and Wales super easy has increased dramatically over the last few months.
It’s all there for the walking, whether you want to stay local or venture off the beaten track. The more you do the greater the benefits. Walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories, and make your heart healthier. Stepping up your daily or weekly steps as days become shorter and the light withdraws could also be just the thing to ward off any hint of winter blues.
“Lockdown showed that a daily walk outdoors makes a huge difference to wellbeing. Walking is the ideal exercise, its free, it releases feel-good endorphins, and can be done anywhere. You don’t have to wait for that weekend trip into the countryside, there are fantastic walks in towns and cities, around parks, along canals. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes, maybe a waterproof, some water, and a route.”
Whilst out and about you can still have a good brew:
View all our walks: