If you can’t stand the thought of fighting for space or slogging it out on a treadmill this January, then walking might be an excellent and low-intensity alternative you may not have considered.
Whilst walking may seem like a rather indolent activity in comparison to other forms of exercise, there are a surprising number of benefits attributed to taking a stroll. If you’re worried that walking may not be enough to make positive health changes, then we have some news for you!
Walking Can Save Your Life
Don’t believe us? In terms of improving physical wellness, walking is considered a ‘weight-bearing’ exercise. It improves cardiovascular and pulmonary ( heart and lung) fitness, and according a study conducted on 334,000 participants by researchers at the University of Cambridge, it was found that 20 minutes of brisk walking a day cuts the risk of premature death by almost a third. If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, then a 30-minute walk reduces the risk of suffering a stroke by up to 27%, (Stroke Association). Walking also improves balance and bone strength.
It’s Addictive (But In A Good Way)
It’s no secret either that being active has a positive impact on your mental health. When we exercise, the brain releases a protein called BDNP (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This is because our brain recognises an increase in heart pressure as being a moment of stress. Endorphins – a chemical – are also released. Endorphins block out discomfort and pain, and are associated with feelings of euphoria. So if you’re feeling lethargic or have a low mood, then taking a walk could help lift your spirits. BDNF and endorphins are what makes exercise feel so amazing– but unlike the addictive properties associated with drugs such as heroine or nicotine, our brain secretions are good for us!
Furthermore, researchers in Canada found that walking regularly could minimise the chances of someone developing vascular cognitive impairment (a cause of dementia). It was found that within a group of 38 adults who were monitored for six months, those who often took brisk walks for that period displayed improved levels of brain function.
It’s For Everyone!
We know it can be difficult to find the time (and motivation) to get out, but thankfully there are many walking groups who meet up and socialise. Walking is a great way of finding new friends, and often these groups cater to all fitness levels so you won’t feel pressured into going beyond what you’re comfortable with. Meetups organised by groups such as The Ramblers also encourage people to bring their children and four-legged friends when the route is suitable – perfect if you’re a dog-lover or have a family.
So, if you’ve been pleasantly surprised by the range of health benefits that walking offers, then take a look at 5 walking routes throughout the UK.
- The Eastern Edges on Big Moor, Peak District, Derbyshire
Starting at Curbar Gap, this walk will take you on a north circular route over Big Moor. It’s a moderate walk, and should take between 2.5 hours to 3 hours to complete depending on your pace. In places the terrain is steep, and paths can be narrow and stony. If you love wildlife, then bringing binoculars is recommended as there is a wealth of flora and fauna, including red deer, to be observed here. This walk is dog-friendly.
Find the route here: National Trust
2. London’s Secret Village, Hampstead, London
So you want to beat the hordes of selfie stick-touting tourists and the slow walkers of Central London? Or maybe you’re just visiting and want to find somewhere relaxed? Hampstead might be just the thing. Filled with literary heritage, colourful houses, and picturesque streets, it’s just the thing if you enjoy snapping photos and enjoying the atmosphere. This route is designed to be walked at your own pace, and finishes at The Holly Bush, Hampstead’s most famous pub. It should take approximately 2 hours.
Find the route here: A Lady in London
3. Family Friendly Walk to Aber Falls, Snowdonia, Wales
At 4km long (approx. 2.48 miles), this route is suited for small legs as it is mostly easy-going and has plenty of benches along the way if you or the littles ones get tired. The paths are well marked, and there are café and toilet facilities nearby. Please note that there is open water beneath the waterfall, and rocks can be slippery. Proceed with caution if you choose to take a closer look! We recommend that you bring waterproofs as the spray from the Aber Falls can be carried quite far. Duration is approximately 2 hours.
Find the route here: Mud and Routes
4. A Magical Adventure in Glenfinnan, Highlands, Scotland
This walk can be done in legs depending on what sites you wish to visit. If you choose to walk the entire length, bear in mind that this route is linear, and is 17.15km (approx. 10.6 miles). Along the way you’ll be able to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which was featured in the Harry Potter films, a riverside bothy, and the dramatic mountain pass of Bealach a’Chaorainn. Ordnance Survey have classed this route as ‘challenging’, with an ascent of 525 metres. Some sections are also accessible for those with limited mobility. Duration is 2 hours 35 minutes.
Find the route here: Countryfile
5. Explore the South-West Coast, Brixham, Devon
Sun, sea, and fresh air! Devon has some wild and beautiful sweeping coastlines which are renowned for its surfing. Whether you’re bundling up against the winter wind, or enjoying the summer breeze, this walk is just right for an active family with older children. It’s 4 miles (7.4km) long, and should take 2 hours to complete. This walk is dog-friendly.
Find the route here: Devon Life