May is National Walking Month 2021, and with the winter behind us and the lighter nights here for the summer, this is an ideal time of year to get outdoors and start walking.
Taking place every year, National Walking Month is organised by Living Streets, a UK charity working to create safe, attractive streets built around the needs of people rather than cars. The campaign seeks to encourage people to walk more for the benefit of their physical and mental health.
Walking is free, flexible and fun, and proven to have a tremendously positive impact on wellbeing. Steady-paced walking for 30 minutes each day for five days per week reduces the risk of several illnesses and conditions, including heart disease, stroke, lung disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
There are a range of other health benefits to walking too, such as the burning of calories, easing of joint pain, boosting of immune function, lowering of blood sugar levels and strengthening of muscle tone. Walking outdoors is also an excellent way of guarding against future health issues and conditions.
But it’s not just a person’s physical health which is enhanced by walking; 90% of people who walk outdoors report improvement in their mental health too. Research has evidenced that walking is highly beneficial for people experiencing depression, low mood, anxiety and stress. Mary McNeil, Development Manager at Cornerstone House Centre, commented:
“Walking is a fantastic way to keep active and maintain a healthy body and mind. It requires no special equipment and doesn’t cost a single penny.
“Getting out each day for a walk can make a huge difference to how you’re feeling. Don’t worry about having to walk for a long time; even a brisk 10 minute daily walk has lots of health benefits and counts towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise.
“Over the last year, high numbers of people have appreciated the chance to get out for a walk more than ever before in the light of coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions across the country.
“It is important, however, when you do walk outside to make sure that you adhere to Scottish Government guidance in relation to social distancing.”
Through key awareness raising and partnership activity, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub intends to encourage local people to continue walking as part of their daily routine well beyond National Walking Month.
Indeed, there are many parks and areas of green space in the Greater Cumbernauld area which are ideal places for walkers. These include Palacerigg Country Park, Cumbernauld House Park, Cumbernauld Community Park and Colzium House and Estate.
Your heart is responsible for pumping oxygen and blood around your body and keeping all the other organs working. So we think you’ll agree that it’s important to keep it in tip top condition! Walking not only strengthens your heart but reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes.
In fact, a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day is said to reduce your risk of a stroke by 27%. If this wasn’t enough, it also reduces bad levels of cholesterol and increases the levels of good cholesterol too.
If you are new to exercise, or maybe trying to lose weight gradually in order to keep it off, then walking is a great form of exercise for you. If you walk at around two miles per hour for 30 minutes then you will burn about 75 calories, and if you increase this to four miles per hour this will rise to approximately 150 calories. Twenty minutes of walking every day will burn an incredible 7lbs of body fat a year.
An older person who walks six or more miles a week is less likely to have problems such as dementia. This is because walking has been proven to prevent your brain from shrinking.
Alzheimer Scotland reports that of all the lifestyle changes that have been studied, taking regular physical exercise appears to be one of the best things that you can do to reduce your risk of getting dementia. Several studies looking at the effect of walking in middle-aged and older adults have evidenced improvements in thinking and memory.
Many muscles in the body are activated during walking, including calves, glutes, hamstrings, quads and abdominals. As such, by walking you are giving your legs, bum and core a good workout.
There are times when you feel more lethargic than others, and if you find yourself in this zone then a walk could do you good. It boosts your circulation and increases the oxygen supply is around your body, which in turn will keep you feeling alert and awake.
Here in the UK, there are lots of people who are deficient in vitamin D. The best way to increase your levels of vitamin D is to get outside in the sunshine. Vitamin D is good for your skeletal health and immune system, which is why it is important to try and increase the levels in your body.
Vitamin D also helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
In the same way walking can help you feel energised, it is also great for making you feel happy. A brisk walk can be just as beneficial as taking an antidepressant, and can be a great helping hand if you are suffering from depression, anxiety or feeling stressed.
Stress is contributing more and more to the breakdown of our physical and mental health, but taking time even for a short walk each day can make all the difference in improving your state of mind and general wellbeing.
HOW CAN I MAKE WALKING INTERESTING AND ENGAGING?
If you find walking a bit of a chore, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub offers the below simple tips to make walking more interesting:
Listen to music or radio chat through earphones or headphones whilst walking
Walk to a local park or beauty spot accessible from your house
Invite your household for a walk
Try using a walking phone to speak to someone whilst you walk
Walk before or after you work
Photograph nature or interesting things you see when walking
Walk to the local shop in your neighbourhood
Give ‘mindful walking’ a try
Try power walking, even if only for part of your walk or on certain days
Reminisce by walking by your old school if it is nearby
Use a fitness app, smartwatch or other tracking device to count the number of steps you take
Pray or talk to God about what’s on your mind during your walk
Focus on pleasant thoughts or images whilst walking
Make an effort to notice and breathe in the fresh air around you whilst walking, especially in green areas
Sing a tune, whistle or hum to yourself whilst walking
Take some water or an isotonic drink with you to sip on whilst walking
Look out for interesting things in relation to housing, nature or people when you are walking
Incorporate a good deed as part of your walk, such as collecting a neighbour’s shopping or prescription
Wear trainers or flat, comfortable shoes with appropriate insoles whilst walking
Walk with a thankful attitude and remind yourself that walking is a blessing.