Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier.
It’s underrated as a form of exercise, but walking is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to be more active.
Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.
Use this guide to increase the amount of walking you do every week and maximise the health benefits.
Before you start
A pair of shoes is all the equipment you really need. Any shoes or trainers that are comfortable, provide adequate support and don’t cause blisters will do.
If you’re walking to work, you can just wear your usual work clothes with a comfy pair of shoes.
For long walks, you may want to take some water, healthy snacks, a spare top, sunscreen and a sunhat in a small backpack.
If you start taking regular, longer walks, you may want to invest in a waterproof jacket and some walking boots for more challenging routes.
Start slowly and try to build your walking regime gradually. To get the health benefits from walking, it needs to be of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. In other words, it needs to be faster than a stroll.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re walking fast enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell is that you’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favourite song.
If, to begin with, you can only walk fast for a couple of minutes, that’s fine. Don’t overdo it on your first day.
You can break up your activity into 10-minute chunks, as long as you’re doing your activity at a moderate intensity.
Begin every walk slowly and gradually increase your pace. After a few minutes, if you’re ready, try walking a little faster.
Towards the end of your walk, gradually slow down your pace to cool down. Finish off with a few gentle stretches, which will improve your flexibility.
From walking to the shops or part of your journey to work, to walking the dog and organised group walks, try to make every step count.
Make it a habit
The easiest way to walk more is to make walking a habit. Think of ways to include walking into your daily routine. Examples include:
- walking part of your journey to work
- walking to the shops
- using the stairs instead of the lift
- leaving the car behind for short journeys
- walking the kids to school
- doing a regular walk with a friend
- going for a stroll with family or friends after dinner