May is National Walking Month – a chance for you to put on some comfy shoes and get out there! Whether you fancy a short amble or a longer ramble - walking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and the perfect way to explore new places.
We’re not necessarily talking hiking up mountains – but gentle, low-impact exercise that’s easy, free and available to everyone
In this blog, Bronia Bendall, NRW’s Health and Wellbeing Policy Advisor, gives you 10 reasons why walking rocks!
1. Walking strengthens your heart
Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by walking regularly. It’s great cardio exercise, lowering levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. The Stroke Association says that a brisk 30-minute walk every day helps to prevent and control the high blood pressure that causes strokes, reducing the risk by up to 27 percent.
2. Walking lowers disease risk
A regular walking habit slashes the risk of type 2 diabetes by around 60 percent, and you’re 20 percent less likely to develop cancer of the colon, breast or womb with an active hobby such as walking.
3. Walking helps you lose weight
You’ll burn around 75 calories simply by walking at 2mph for 30 minutes. Up your speed to 3mph and it’s 99 calories, while 4mph is 150 calories (equivalent to three Jaffa cakes and a jam doughnut!). Work that short walk into your daily routine and you’ll shed the pounds in no time.
4. Walking prevents dementia
Older people who walk six miles or more per week are more likely to avoid brain shrinkage and preserve memory as the years pass. Since dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80, we reckon that’s a pretty great idea.
5. Walking tones up legs, bums and tums
Give definition to calves, quads and hamstrings while lifting your glutes (bum muscles) with a good, regular walk. Add hill walking into the mix and it’s even more effective. Pay attention to your posture and you’ll also tone your abs and waist.
6. Walking boosts vitamin D
We all need to get outside more. Many people in the UK are vitamin D deficient, affecting important things like bone health and our immune systems. Walking is the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors while getting your vitamin D fix.
7. Walking gives you energy
You’ll get more done with more energy, and a brisk walk is one of the best natural energisers around. It boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in your body, helping you to feel more alert and alive. Try walking on your lunch break to achieve more in the afternoon.
8. Walking makes you happy
It’s true – exercise boosts your mood. Studies show that a brisk walk is just as effective as antidepressants in mild to moderate cases of depression, releasing feel-good endorphins while reducing stress and anxiety. So for positive mental health, walking’s an absolute must.
9. Walking relieves work stress
Walking gives you time to think. Getting out of the stressful environment, breathing the air, and feeling your body move is natural stress-relief. A walk in a park at lunchtime rather than walking the pavements will decrease anxiety and increase working memory performance.
10. Walkers Live Longer
A Study of 8000 people found that walking just two miles a day cut the risk of death almost in half. The walkers' risk of death was especially lower from cancer. Other studies have had similar findings - if you keep walking, you improve your chances of a longer and healthier life.
So walking for 30 to 60 minutes each day is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit.
Most of the woodlands and National Nature Reserves managed by NRW are open for walkers. There are waymarked routes through these special places as well as facilities such as visitor centres and information panels to help people make the most of their visit.
The free ‘Places to Go’ App and our web pages at http://cyfoethnaturiol.cymru/out-and-about/places-to-go/?lang=en (you can download the App here too!) shows you where you can go and what you can do in Wales’s public forests and National Nature Reserves. And if you fancy a longer hike why not check out the Wales Coast Path http://www.walescoastpath.gov.uk/?lang=en or try out one of Wales’s National Trails http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/