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Walking is the new workout

We all know walking is good for you but experts are now saying that a brisk walk can be better for you than jogging or an hour in the gym.

A recent study by Cambridge University found that a brisk twenty minute daily walk reduces the risk of early death by 25 per cent. A major study in the USA has demonstrated that walking for just half an hour a day can dramatically reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, depression and Type 2 Diabetes. Dr William Bird was one the first GPs in the UK to prescribe walking to his patients. He says “Going on regular walks is one of the most powerful and easiest changes you can make to your health and well being”. He has developed initiatives such as Health Walks, Green Gyms and Beat the Street which have got more than three million people in the UK moving.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan recently appointed former Nike executive Will Norman as the first Walking and Cycling Commissioner with an investment of £770 million for walking and cycling in the capital up to 2022. Deputy Mayor Val Shawcross who was integral to the new appointment is a long term recreational rambler and a recent convert to urban walking which she says helped her to lose two and a half stone.

Research conducted by Natural England and the University of Exeter found that walking can also result in improved self-esteem and mood states. Observing the mental health benefits of walking has led NHS psychotherapist Jonathan Hoban to start taking his counselling sessions out into the open often rambling across Wimbledon Common with clients. Volunteer group Street Wisdom offers free mindful walking sessions nationwide.

Fitness trainer Joanna Hall says that we do need to learn to walk properly if we want to get fit. “Walking is the foundation of all movement patterns so why wouldn’t you want to do it better?” The human foot has 26 bones in it, but how many of us use them? From Halls experience not many. Yet she believes that walking actively rather than the passive trudge witnessed all around us is just as good as going out for a run. Her mission is to make walking “sexy, aspirational, joyful and dynamic”. She has developed a WalkActive global greeting; holding your arms out you make a hand gesture with thumbs and little fingers extended. These are then placed at the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hip bones respectively. The immediate effect is one of elongating the torso to make you stretch your body when you walk.

Here in Somerset we have wonderful walking country all around us with one of the longest rights of way networks in the Country. So get out there for a walk and get fit without even noticing it.

“Everyone should take the dog for a walk, even if they don’t have one.”

Dr Ralph Paffenbarger, epidemiologist and marathon runner.

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