The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults should carry out a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week to stay healthy. However, a recent survey by Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, has found that nearly half (45%) of the nation is reluctant to even make a 20-minute journey on foot.
In response to these figures, Joe Irvin, Chief Executive at Living Streets, is encouraging the British public to add twenty minutes of walking onto their daily routine as part of National Walking Month this May:
“There's no doubt that keeping active is good for our health, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to start spending hours in the gym.
At Living Streets, we believe that everyday walking is a great way to improve your health and the way you feel. That's why we are urging everyone in the UK to join our #Try20 campaign this May. Walking for twenty minutes a day can make a huge difference to the way you feel, and cuts your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression. By making this small step you will experience a big difference, both physically and mentally.
To help inspire everyone to #Try20 this May, here we have outlined some of the many health benefits that regular walking has to offer:
Many people are surprised to learn that walking is a very serious form of exercise. Although you may not feel like you are working very hard, walking is actually a low-impact aerobic exercise that burns calories effectively.
The exact number of calories that you burn while walking will depend on your weight and the distance you walk. You can calculate roughly how many calories you’ve burned walking a mile at a slow walking speed by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.49, or for brisk walking multiplying it by 0.57. The average person takes 20 minutes to walk one mile – so in just 20 minutes you could burn off over 100 calories!
LOOK AFTER YOUR HEART
The heart, like all other muscles, needs physical activity to keep it in good, working condition. Regular exercise can help to improve your overall heart health and avoid many of the ‘risk factors’ associated with heart and circulatory disease.
We should all aim to do at least 150 minutes of ‘moderate intensity’ exercise each week to keep our heart in a healthy state. Moderate intensity means that you should feel warm and a touch breathless, but still be able to hold a conversation.
Going for a brisk walk is a moderate intensity exercise that will get your heart pumping and increase your cardio exercise, without even having to visit the gym. Try to walk energetically, adding in hills and spurts of speed walking, if you want to increase the intensity.
ENERGISE YOUR LIFE
Naturally, you will get a lot more out of your day when you have more energy; and a brisk walk is one of the most effective, natural energisers around!
Walking strengthens the circulation of blood around the body and increases the oxygen supply to all your cells, helping you to feel much more alert and alive. In fact, scientists have concluded that one of the best ways to beat fatigue and boost energy is to exercise more - not less! Try walking for 20 minutes on your lunch break or 20 minutes in the evening before you have dinner to make sure that you feel energised and get the most out of your day.
GET TOGETHER WITH FRIENDS
Whether you’re popping to the local shops, heading to work, or guiding your child to school, walking is a great time to catch up with those who are close to you. By inviting friends and family to join you on your walk, and taking it at your own pace, you can walk and talk to your hearts content.
FREE YOUR BRAIN
Anxiety, stress, and depression are all mental health issues that are becoming increasingly common in today’s hard-working and busy society. Whilst many people look to medication to treat these issues, walking is a free ‘home remedy’ that can also help. This is because walking releases chemicals called ‘endorphins’ which interact with the receptors in your brain, reducing your perception of pain and, thus, helping to boost your mood. In fact, recent studies have shown that a brisk walk is just as effective as antidepressants in mild to moderate cases of depression, stress, and anxiety.
Even if you don’t suffer from these mental health issues, and are just feeling a little tense after a busy day at work, walking is the perfect way to zone-out, de-stress and rid yourself of all the negative thoughts in your mind. So, for positive mental health - walking’s an absolute must!
EMBRACE YOUR ADVENTOUROUS SIDE
There’s no better way to explore your local area at home or at work than by having a stroll. Try to do some research beforehand and find out a bit about the area. Note any landmarks or interesting buildings to check out, and don’t forget to take your camera!
For an extra push to get the public out and about, to mark National Walking Month, Living Streets has created a variety of free walking trails with ‘Crumbs City Trails’ – a mobile app which takes you on a walking route in your nearest city, scattered with clues and trivia questions to help you discover more about the culture and history of the area. This is a fun new way for you to explore your home city and reach the recommended amount of exercise for the week. Search for Crumbs City Trails on the App store or on Google Play.”
OFFSET SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES
If you’re looking for a more serious reason to start walking, then consider the benefit that walking can have on your life-span.
Statistics show that physical inactivity now rivals smoking as one of the UK’s biggest health problems, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality – contributing to 6% of deaths globally each year.
If these figures aren’t enough to encourage you to get active, then consider that walking for twenty minutes a day can also help to reduce the risk of several serious illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, dementia, strokes, and even some cancers, including breast, bowel, and womb cancer.
BE MORE ECO-FRIENDLY
Many of us would like to make a personal contribution to climate change, and here is a simple way that you can… ditch those car keys in favour of walking shoes and avoid carbon emissions completely.
The average Brit spends a whopping £1,000 a year on transport costs. Walking is an easy way to keep these costs down, whilst boosting your fitness levels and general wellbeing at the same time.
You could knock a bundle off your commuting bill by leaving your car behind, or skipping a stop on your public transport journey and walking the rest of the way, as this will save a significant amount of cash on fares and fuel costs.
CREATE MORE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Do you struggle to find time to exercise and get all your chores done, whilst carrying out all your other work and weekend commitments? Well, why not incorporate some of your daily chores into a lunch time walk, or a weekend wander, so that you can get everything off your plate in one go?
Find out where the nearest post office, supermarket or bank is, and take a stroll to get those necessary chores done. You will feel energized and stress-free knowing that you’re on top of those small nagging jobs, as well as adding 20 minutes of walking to your day.
For more information about Living Streets and National Walking Month, please visit: www.livingstreets.org.uk/nwm