National Walking Month: Benefits and top tips
National Walking Month is celebrated in the UK throughout May. Supported by the charity Living Streets, the aim is to get more people to “take to their feet”. The organisation has a mission is to achieve a better walking environment and inspire people to walk more. Walking is free, easy to access and has many health benefits.
8 benefits of walking
1. Good for your heart
Walking is a cardiovascular exercise and therefore strengthens your heart.A brisk walk of just 30 minutes each day can reduce your risk of heart disease and a stroke.
2. Weight loss
An average person walking at around 2mph for 30 minutes will burn around 75 calories. If you walk faster at around 4mph, you’ll more than double the calorie burn.
3. Reduced risk of dementia
Research has shown that an older person who walks six or more miles a week is less likely to have problems such as dementia.
4. Improves energy
Walking boosts circulation and increases the oxygen supply around your body, which in turn will keep you alert and awake.
5 All-over fitness
Many muscles in your body are activated during walking including calves, glutes, hamstrings, quads and abs. Add a pair of walking poles for even greater benefit to the upper body.
6 Vitamin boost
Vitamin D is vital for bone health and maintaining a healthy immune system. The best source is sunlight and if you are out walking you will naturally improve your up-take.
7 For happiness
Research shows that exercise such as walking outdoors can boost mental well-being and reduce the chance of suffering with anxiety and depression.
Take steps to walk more in May: 10 tips
If you are keen to get into walking, or to step up to hiking in the countryside, next month is the ideal time to try.
I asked British adventure athlete Laura Kennington, who is sponsored by Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports for her walking tips.
1 A little but often
If you want to build up your walking, you need to think about when you can squeeze in the steps.You could walk all, or some of, the way to work, or go out for a brisk walk at lunchtime.
Walk the kids to school and suggest a family walk each evening.
When you see a set of stairs, climb them rather than taking the lift.
All these shorter walks will mean you become fitter – and ready for longer hikes in the countryside.
2 Walk and talk
If you regularly meet friends for a coffee or a glass of wine, suggest that you walk and talk instead.
You’ll be using the time that you would normally sit down to stretch your legs and get fit.
3 Have a goal
A target will help to give you the focus and motivation to walk more.You could sign up for a charity walking challenge or aim to hike to a local hill summit.
Another great goal is to walk some of Scotland’s most famous mountains, such as the Munros or the Corbetts.
Multi-day hikes, such as one of Scotland’s Great Trails, provide a good aim as well.
4 Get kitted out
The right clothing and equipment will make hiking so much more enjoyable.Start by wearing thinner baselayers, especially those made of natural fabrics, such as merino wool or bamboo.
You want layers to be breathable so that sweat can evaporate through to the outside.
A lightweight insulated layer, followed by a waterproof jacket, are ideal for Scotland’s fickle weather.
If it looks like it will be wet, pop a pair of lightweight waterproof trousers in a rucksack to take with you.
Also take a hat and gloves, just in case it turns chillier or windier.
Your footwear choice will depend on where you walk. For dry paths, a pair of trainers will suffice.
For more rugged terrain or for walks in the rain, wear good quality walking boots or shoes.
5 Food and drink
Maintain your energy and stay hydrated by packing adequate food and water in a rucksack.
You don’t need to buy specialist energy products because a simple cheese roll, homemade flapjack and a bottle of water will suffice for most hikes.
6 Weather wise
To start with, you will probably choose fairweather days for longer walks.The Met office and the Mountain Weather Information Service are good for forecasts.
Remember that the weather at lower altitudes can be very different than on higher ground.
7 Learn to navigate
At the start of your new walking hobby, it’s best to stick to lower level trails in good weather.
There are also plenty of route and map apps that you can use as extra support on your smartphone.
Try the Ordnance Survey (OS) app or the Viewranger app.
But as you venture further, it’s vital that you know how to navigate by map and compass.
Learn from an experienced friend or sign up for a navigation course.
8 Join a walking group
A local walking group or a hill walking club is a great next step for many people.
Check out www.meetup.com or www.ramblers.org.uk/scotland.
9 Meet others on-line
There are on-line groups for walkers, such as Facebook groups, “Munroaming”, “Scottish hill walking and camping” and “Scottish Women’s Walking Group”.
10 The important extras
Always carry sun cream and a basic first aid kit, including blister plasters.
If you are heading into the hills, tell someone where you are going and how long you will be.
Remember the emergency rescue number, 112.
This article appeared in the Sunday Mail: