Walking is a simple, free way of getting more physically active and is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels. It is easy to build into your daily routine and doesn't require any special equipment.
As well as many mental and physical health benefits, walking can help you feel part of your community and reduce loneliness and isolation.
Many people don't think of walking as being exercise. However you don't need to go to the gym, go swimming or play sports to get the benefits of being active. Walking is a great way of reaching the recommended level of physical activity we need to stay healthy.
For walking to count towards your recommended level of physical activity, you should walk at a pace that increases your breathing speed and heart rate. Taking a brisk walk (as if you are late for an appointment) for just 30 minutes a day on at least 5 days per week can help you feel good (you will feel fitter and feel better about yourself); you will have more energy, reduce stress, reduce your blood pressure, manage your weight and sleep better. You will also have fun!
For older people, walking more often is great for increasing general mobility and muscle strength in your lower body which reduces the risk of falls.
For individuals with long term conditions such as cancer, COPD, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, walking can be beneficial in maintaining your well being and independence. It could also help you manage the symptoms of your condition and in some cases improve them.
Pedometers, smartphone apps and activity trackers are useful, motivational tools to help you track your walking progress. You can use them to set yourself goals and measure your success.
There's also social benefits of using activity tracking apps as they allow you to join walking communities and groups, share your step scores with friends and compare steps with others as part of competitions.
You can up your steps in simple ways such as –
taking the stairs instead of the lift
walking on your lunch break at work or after work with family and friends
parking further away from your destination and having a short walk
walking for short commutes instead of taking the car
using public transport so that you have a short walk at each end of your journey
signing up for a sponsored walk for some extra motivation
Making small changes to increase your number of daily steps can lead to big health benefits. You should aim to establish a baseline of how many steps you currently do and aim to increase this gradually until you are walking for at least 2.5 hours per week.
If you decide to do more walking, think about whether you can walk to work, walk your kids to school, walk to the shops or go visit friends nearby. Having a pet dog is also a great way to encourage you to walk more, you could even walk with a friends dog if you don't have your own!
You can start walking by breaking the time into smaller chunks ie. Walk for 10 minutes 3 times per day or 15 minutes twice a day. Build this up to walking greater distances and picking up a faster pace. Usually all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes, that allow you to walk comfortably and provide suitable support to your feet.
Even a small increase in the amount of walking can bring significant benefits if you are currently inactive. Look for local walking groups, health walk groups or even try going with friends or your partner. For some, walking with other people provides motivation to not only start walking more, but to continue.
Health Walk groups are found all across Scotland with over 550 walks taking place each week. The walks are volunteer led, free, sociable and open to everyone no matter what your age, fitness level or ability. Some Health Walks are also adapted to provide extra support for individuals with dementia or cancer, enabling them to take part with confidence.
Active travel means making journeys in active ways such was walking or cycling. Active travel aims to improve your quality of life and quality of area. Walking instead of driving to nearby locations will -
improve your physical and mental well being and reduce risk of obesity
reduce traffic and improve the air quality in your area
Nordic walking is a full-body exercise that is also easier on your lower joints than regular walking due to the use of poles. It is a great way to significantly improve the condition of your muscles, heart and lungs.
Nordic walking poles harness the power of your upper body muscles to help push you forward as you walk. It is a recognised way to turn a walk into full body exercise. You move in a similar way to ordinary walking, holding your poles, you swing your arms with your elbows straight allowing the bottom of the poles to push against the ground propelling you forward as you move.
It is recommended that when you begin Nordic walking, you start with lessons to ensure you master the basic technique and can continue the exercise without causing yourself strain or injury. There are Nordic Walking groups across the country that you can join.
Nordic walking can bring health benefits beyond regular walking as it involves more areas of your body. It is a great way of becoming more active if you have balance issues, are overweight or have a long term condition that affects your mobility.