Walking and health
Walking can be incorporated into everyday routines and domestic tasks. It is a year-round, readily repeatable, reinforcing, habit-forming activity and by far the most easily accessible means of reaping health benefits with no special equipment required. Walking brings a range of health benefits:
- builds cardiovascular capacity and stamina
- improves weight-bearing or strength of bones
- enables flexibility in the joints
- supports good posture
- supports social wellbeing and independence
Walking is ideal as a gentle start-up for people who sit for long periods, who are inactive or recovering from illness or a medical condition. As general policy, a gradual progression is indicated from slow, to regular pace and on to 30 minutes or more of brisk (i.e. 6.4 km per hour) walking on most days. These levels should achieve the major gains of activity and healthy fitness without adverse effects. The average middle-aged person should be able to walk 1.6km comfortably on the level at 6.4 km per hour and on a slope of 1 in 20 at 4.8 km per hour.
Walking for health, the website supported by Sport England, states that the minimum recommendation from doctors to keep your body healthy and prevent illness such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and diabetes is 150 minutes of activity a week. They recommend it as a low impact exercise for people with long term medical conditions and have trained walking leads you can talk to. When we walk our brains release chemicals, just as with any form of exercise, that make us feel good. This will help us to cope better with stressful situations and reduce our chances of illness, anxiety and depression.
Alzheimer’s Society has demonstrated the link between a healthy brain and a healthy lifestyle. Walking that gets you a little bit breathless will protect the brain by keeping blood vessels healthy and thus staving off a stroke and vascular dementia. If you are new to walking or any kind of exercise you will be learning something new and nurturing brain health.
Walking, nature and the environment
Research shows that walking in nature can boost your positivity and help you cope with your emotional and physical health. Trees naturally give off something called phytoncides or wood essential oils, which have a beneficial effect on our nervous systems. Collecting items such as fir cones, feathers, leaves and twigs can also bring nature into your home and stimulate a happy and positive memory.
Reconnecting with nature:
- reduces stress
- calms your nerves.
- lowers concentrations of cortisol,
- lower pulse rate and blood pressure
You might like to consider taking a mindful walk in one of the parks. Urban River has totem poles with a QR code that activates a meditation as you walk. Find these on the events and activities tab. Take ten minutes meditation walks in Castle Farm (opposite the Freeman Hospital in High Heaton), Hodgkin Park in Benwell, City Stadium in Shieldfield, Iris Brickfield Park in Heaton and Tyne Riverside Park in Newburn.
Walking activities that you can join
As we emerge out of lockdown, a number of activities will resume and we will add them to the events and activities tab. Those that took place regularly are listed on our fitness activities article under walking.
There are a number of fundraising events that bring people together and some of those are listed below:
- CMO guidance on being active
- Benefits of being physically active
- Find a walk or plan a route using Walk4Life
- Living Streets is an non-profit organisation that aims to achieve a better walking environment and inspire people to walk more
- Healthworks has created a downloadable guide, Scotswood walking history trails
Last updated: August 2, 2021