National Walking Month: How Walking Boosts Health

National Walking Month

Warmer weather and lighter evenings provide the perfect opportunity to celebrate May as National Walking Month and get more active.

Walking is fun, free and doesn’t require any specialist equipment or training. Walking and being active in general helps to improve cardiovascular fitness and reduce risk factors for disease, such as:

  • Cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

According to Public Health England, one brisk walk a day is enough to cut the risk of early death by as much as 15%. Even a brisk 10-minute daily walk will improve your health and counts towards the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week.

Here are even more reasons to to incorporate walking into your daily routine:

  • Walking reduces blood pressure
  • It reduces your risk of cancer
  • It strengthens bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis
  • It increases vitamin D intake
  • It builds stamina
  • You’ll feel more energised
  • You’ll maintain a healthy weight
  • Walking improves your mood and reduces stress levels
  • It increases self-confidence
  • It improves sleep

What do I need?

Walking is one of the cheapest ways to exercise. All you really need is appropriate footwear that is comfortable, supportive and a good fit. You should hydrate well before your walk, and take some water with you. Finally, make sure you dress comfortably and come prepared for weather changes.

How should I warm up?

Warming up and stretching can help prevent injury. Start your walk slowly to give your muscles time to warm up. When you’ve finished walking, gently stretch your leg muscles. If you have a pre-existing injury or any uncertainties about your fitness abilities, always seek medical advice first.

How fast should I walk?

A brisk walk has a faster pace than a stroll. You should feel your heart working and feel warm. The length of required walking time will vary depending on your usual activity level.

You may find it helpful to use the Active10 app, which forms part of the Active10 campaign run by the NHS and Public Health England. This app tells you when you are walking at the right speed and helps you complete bursts of ten minutes, known as Active 10s. Active10 tracks all your walking and helps you set future goals.

How long should I walk for?

Walking at approximately 2 mph for half and hour a day will burn around 75 calories and is a great way to improve and maintain your overall health. Increasing your speed to 4 mph will double the amount that you burn–around 150 calories. If you are struggling to walk for 30 minutes a day, start with smaller walks and build up your time gradually as your fitness improves.

What if I don’t exercise much?

Walking is a low-impact form of exercise, which means there is less pressure on your joints than high-impact exercises like running and jumping. Walking is generally considered to be a safe form of exercise, but if you’re not very active, you will need to increase your walking distance gradually and choose walks that suit your age and fitness level.

How to integrate walking into your day-to-day routine

There are some simple changes you can make to include walking in your normal routine, such as:

  • Walking the kids to school
  • Walking with friends
  • Walking the dog
  • Getting off the bus one stop earlier
  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift
  • Walking short journeys that you may have used the car for (for example popping to the local shop)
  • Walking part of your journey to work

How to make walking more interesting

  • Vary the route you take
  • Make an exercise playlist or listen to an audio book
  • Work towards goals
  • Join a walking group

Just Walk for National Walking Month

Organised by the British Heart Foundation, Just Walk is a simple and easy way to fundraise for charity. Sign up to Just Walk, choose when and where you would like to walk, and raise money for life-saving heart and circulatory disease research.

It’s time to get walking for National Walking Month!

For the latest health updates, tips and information, please visit the East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours Service blog.