During May, as part of National Walking Month 2020, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is encouraging people to get out of the house for a walk to help improve both their physical and mental health.
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. This year, the organisation is challenging people to #Try20 by taking a 20 minute walk each day throughout May.
Whilst many of the events associated with the annual initiative – such as Walk to Work Week and Walk to School Week – have since been cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the campaign takes on heightened importance this year for the very same reason.
High numbers of people are appreciating the chance to get out for a walk more than ever before in the light of lockdown restrictions in the UK. At the time of this article, citizens are permitted to leave their house for essential journeys only and once a day for exercise.
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 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; 9 out of 10 people who walk outdoors report improvement in their mental health. 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, said:
“During the present lockdown, it is extremely important for our physical health and mental wellbeing to remain active.
“It is very hard to draw positives from the dreadful situation the population is living through just now, but if there is one good thing it is that a bit of a walking and exercise revolution is taking place across hundreds of towns and villages.
“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.
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 the period of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although Cumbernauld citizens may not be able to visit or fully enjoy them right now, 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.
It is recognised, however, that walking outside is unfortunately not possible for everyone at this challenging time. Those requiring to self-isolate and stay at home because of health issues, age or other legitimate reasons may desire to get out walking but are unable to at present. Understandably, many in this category are feeling frustrated, distressed and downbeat.
If this applies to you, one alternative could be to try walking briskly around the house or up and down the stairs. And when you’re on the phone, you could try standing or walking around rather than sitting down. If you happen to have a treadmill at home which has become a makeshift clothes horse, this could be the ideal time to start walking on it once again.
WALKING WHILST MAINTAINING SOCIAL DISTANCING
‘Social distancing’ wasn’t in our vocabulary as little as two months ago. Now it’s everywhere. Add in other terms like ‘self-isolation’ and talk of vulnerable groups, it’s no wonder it can get confusing.
Government guidelines stipulate that when out walking people must stay at least two metres away from others not living in the same household. Those who ignore this advice put themselves, their families and other people at risk. But what does this mean in practicality?
Two metres is about 6ft 5inches in old money, but since we do not all carry a tape measure around with us, think of it as a minimum of three normal strides for an adult. It is equivalent to the height of a taller than average male; imagine laying someone like Liam Neeson, Peter Crouch or Dwayne Johnson down in between you and another person!
Walking with people in your immediate household is fine, as you’re already in contact with them in the home. However, be mindful not to walk in a large family group and take up the pavement. As we already know, many of the pavements and cycle paths in Cumbernauld aren’t very wide. It is very important to leave at least two metres room for others to pass you confidently and safely.
For the period of lockdown, you might have to walk a lot of the same routes that are accessible by foot from your front door. People are advised to not to travel by car or public transport to reach a desirable location for a walk, and to be out walking for no more than one hour per day.
Under normal circumstances, your mind might wander and not pay too much attention of other people whilst out walking. To maintain social distancing, it’s important to be alert and aware of those around you, including people who may be walking towards you and people who are not being careful about the distance they keep.
If you have one, it’s okay to be out walking with your dog. However, be careful to avoid situations which involve close contact or interaction with other dog owners.
20 TIPS FOR KEEPING WALKING INTERESTING DURING LOCKDOWN
Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub offers the below simple tips to make walking more interesting during coronavirus restrictions:
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 the rainbows children are drawing and placing in their windows to thank key workers
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.