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Wellbeing Bulletin - Walking

Why Should You Walk

Walking is good for our minds, our bodies and our neighbourhoods and has been a lifeline during the past year, helping people stay active and connected.

Walking provides the best of both worlds. It offers the physical benefits of exercise while also boosting your emotional well-being. In fact, walking regularly can help ease symptoms related to chronic mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

You can walk anywhere without equipment or a special membership. The more you do it, the more positive effects you’ll experience.

The Benefits of Walking

  • Improved sleep

  • Better endurance

  • Stress relief

  • Improvement in mood

  • Increased energy and stamina

  • Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness.

  • Weight loss

  • Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular (heart) health

Walking helps boost your mood because it increases blood flow and blood circulation to the brain and body. It has a positive influence on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is your central nervous response system. This is good because the HPA axis is responsible for your stress response. When you exercise by walking, you calm your nerves, which can make you feel less stressed.

You can build on the positive effects of walking by inviting friends to join you. Walking with others for one or two days per week can have enormous benefits. Physical exercise combined with positive social interactions can improve negative moods, ward off depression, and improve self-esteem. Try to walk 3 days a week for 10-30 minutes at a time.

How to Create a Walking Routine Each time you go out, carve out a comfortable walking route, then extend your distance over the next few days or weeks. Give yourself goals to reach and celebrate your wins. Remember, it's not always about the length of the distance you go. It is also about the quality of the walk and the benefits you get from doing it consistently. A good rule of thumb is to walk for 30-45 minutes, either all at once or broken into 10-minute chunks. This ends up being about 2-4 miles. You can measure your distance by wearing a watch to measure the time or buckling a pedometer to your belt to measure the distance.

Living Streets, the UK walking charity for everyday walking polled Brits to find out what they have enjoyed most about walking more and what would encourage them to keep walking as lockdown restrictions ease.

The vast majority of people enjoyed the health benefits offered by a daily walk, with 76 per cent naming physical health benefits and 56 per cent the mental health benefits of being active. Walking was also seen as a good way to meet friends and family in a safe and legal way (36%) and to discover new places (29%), whilst one in five (21%) enjoyed the financial savings from walking instead of driving. Meeting up with friends and family was particularly important to younger people, with over half (56%) of 18-24 year olds using a walk to keep in touch during lockdown.

Traffic levels initially fell during lockdown, leading to improvements in congestion, air quality and noise pollution. Living Streets wants people to keep walking their short journeys and polled people to find out what would encourage them to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Health benefits came out top, with 74 per cent saying they would continue walking to maintain their physical health and 54 per cent to maintain their mental health. Respondents also recognised the wider benefits from walking more with 33 per cent saying they would keep walking to reduce their carbon footprint, 27 per cent to reduce air pollution and 22 per cent to reduce traffic.

Living Streets is urging the public to ‘Walk this May’ for National Walking Month. The charity has launched an online pledge, asking people to commit to walk a certain number of short journeys each week. After making their pledge, people are shown how many miles they will walk, calories they will burn and the amount of CO2 they will avert compared to if they drove those journeys.

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