Walking is one of the simplest types of exercise and it’s free so no costly gym memberships and no excuses :o) . It doesn’t discriminate, being suitable for people of all ages and fitness ability.
Walking is good for your overall health and has to be one of the easiest ways to keep active, get healthy and lose weight.
Being sedentary (not engaging in much physical activity) can bring with it a whole host of health problems including obesity, risk of falls, risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, diabetes (see my other blog post re diabetes prevention) and so on.
So, it’s clear to see that exercise is beneficial in helping to fight off health problems – just wait until you find out even more benefits shortly…... You will want to make some changes I hope!!!
Recommendations and benefits of walking
The Department of Health recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate activity such as brisk walks, cycling or dancing, for those aged 19 to 64.
Even just 30 minutes a day of walking can give you some great health benefits:
Get prepared! - Prior to walking
Before you go out for that lovely fresh air, there's a few things you need to think about first:
Footwear - It’s a good idea to wear suitable footwear especially if you are walking that bit further. You need something which will give you good support and fits well. Opt for shoes which have good arch support, with thick flexible soles which can absorb shock and cushion your feet. Head to my 'Top tips on how to choose the right shoes for you' blog post for further advice on choosing shoes, whatever the occasion - here.
Wear appropriate socks too. If socks are too thin or even too thick they may cause foot problems. Make sure to opt for socks which are specially designed - sport socks would be ideal with a cushioned sole which can provide some extra padding and can absorb sweat better. This will help to prevent foot problems such as fungal infections and blisters. (See my 'Top Tips' page for further foot health advice - here).
Clothing - wear something comfortable yet suitable for the type of weather you are walking in. Bear in mind, if you are walking in the dark you need to wear some high visibility clothing. Even reflective tape would help for visibility.
Hydration - Keep yourself hydrated, take with you some water.
Warm up - build yourself up to the main event! Walk at a slow pace for 5 to 10 minutes initially. This will allow your muscles to warm up and get your body ready for exercising.
Cooling down and finishing your walk
As with starting a walk, you also have things you need to take into account when you are finishing your walk:
Cool down - as you are nearing the end of your walk it’s an idea to cool down by walking at a slow pace for 5 to 10 minutes. This will allow your muscles to cool down.
Stretch your muscles - as you are finishing give your muscles a bit stretch, but do this gently.
Foot-care - it’s important to look after your feet as this will allow you to carry on walking and exercising - your feet can be put under a lot of pressure. Remember to observe your feet, check for injury or irritation and make sure to seek advice or treatment when needed. If you have hard skin then use something such as a pumice stone, but, if problematic contact me for an appointment - likewise with other foot problems such as corns. When you are home from walking you could treat your feet to a nice soak in soapy, warm (not hot) water. Moisturise feet - see here for some other helpful tips.
So now you know what to expect, how can you fit walking into your day?
You could fit walking into your usual routine, when you are at work could you maybe do a little 20 to 30 minute walk on your lunchtime?
Other ideas, maybe use the stairs instead of the lift or escalators, get up a bit earlier and go for a walk before work or after you’ve ate your evening meal. Walking with your friends or family could be a lovely option. Get yourself a dog then you’ve no excuse! Give yourself a bit of variety – choose different routes so you don't get bored.
If you get the bus, maybe get off one or two stops earlier. Even in the house you could fit some extra steps in, when you’re doing the hoovering or going to hang the washing out.
Walking can be fun, it’s good for our physical and mental health, as well as helping us to meet new people. Active Sunderland run guided wellness walks, suitable for people of all ages, fitness levels and abilities. Access their info here (including a link to their programme): https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/wellness-walking
The types of walks are varied too which is great, they do health walks, Nordic walks, Carers on the Move (especially for those who have a caring role) and nature walks. I am sure if you live outside of the Sunderland area you will find similar programmes.
Meeting with other people and walking can help to keep you more motivated.
Another option could be to join a Ramblers walk. They organise group walks for health and leisure. They are suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Find info here http://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking/about-group-walks.aspx
If you are unable to find time to attend an organised walk, why not purchase a pedometer or another type of fitness tracker to keep you going.
The Active 10 app is good as it can track how far you’ve walked as well as how fast. You can set yourself a challenge with goals and measure your progress. You can download this from the App Store (Ipad/Iphone) and Google Play.
Power walking is pretty popular, which is great for increasing our heart rate and breathing rate, thus strengthening our lungs and heart. It also helps the circulatory system which helps to deliver oxygen to the muscles.
Aqua-walking (a low impact water aerobic exercise) could be an option for you if you have health problems such as severe joint issues. The majority of your weight is supported so wouldn’t cause a great deal of strain. Why not contact your local swimming baths or fitness centre to see whether they do this?
Give yourself a challenge!!!
It’s good to give yourself some goals to work towards. You don’t have to walk for hours and hours, even fitting in a few 10 minute brisk walks counts towards the recommended 150 minutes a week. However, the more you walk and the faster and further, the more benefits you will find.
Remember, though, it's OK to start slowly, especially if you haven't been exercising regularly or recently. You could begin with 5 minutes a day the first week and then increase your time by 5 minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes. Don’t set yourself up to fail as that could knock your confidence and motivation.
Guidance from a health professional
As with any type of exercise, please seek guidance from your Doctor before starting - this is especially vital if you have a health problem.
Imagine what fun you could have going out walking, especially with the Spring weather we are getting lately. But even if the weather isn't great, you could still get out there, wrap up, wear appropriate clothing, etc.
I have recently started using a fitness tracker on my phone and when I went to Harrogate this week, I didn't even realise how far I walked, over 13,000 steps completed in just a few hours. And, I enjoyed. Walking, along with a balanced diet is a good way forward - let's do this!!! I would suggest heading to my other blog post 'Foot health and nutrition - You are what you eat' for some ideas on what types of food to eat for better health - here.
What's your plan? Walking alone, as a group or something else?
Good luck :)
P.s. if you want to get your feet spring ready, please contact me to make an appointment.
Lynn, Podiatrist in Sunderland