The benefits of walking

It’s National Walking Month and what better time could there be to get up and moving? The NHS recommends that we get around 150 minutes of exercise per week, this could come in any number of ways, but walking is certainly the most accessible. 

As a nation we lead lives that are generally far too sedentary. Recent NHS data suggests that only two thirds of adults are getting enough exercise. If you’re reading this then the chances are that you’re sitting down now, so why not get outside and get walking?

What are the benefits of walking?

1. It’s accessible

Starting any new activity can be daunting at first and walking is no exception. Unlike many physical activities however, walking has no cost to entry, all you need is yourself and a route (maybe not even that if you’re free spirited enough). Walking is an inclusive activity that can be approached at any pace. 

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a staple of good health and studies suggest that during the spring/summer months you can get all the Vitamin D you need from sunlight. This vitamin is important for the health of our bones, which can help to prevent conditions such as Osteoporosis, high blood pressure and diabetes. Research has shown that Vitamin D can also play a key role in regulating our mood.

3. Physical benefits

Walking on a regular basis will help in maintaining a healthy weight, especially when combined with a good nutritious diet. At all ages (and especially as we get older) it is important to keep our muscles working. They were designed to move, and walking is the perfect way to get them doing what they do best. Regular strolls will help tone up muscles and will also improve circulation, which has a myriad of positive effects on the whole body. 

4. Mental health benefits

Being out in nature provides an opportunity to escape our thoughts and can relieve any frustrations we might have. Taking the time to clear our thoughts, and focus on our senses and nature around us can be really beneficial to our mental health and particularly, our stress levels.

5. It’s social

Getting out in nature for a ramble around with good company can make you feel a whole world better. Walking can be a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy together, or you can join a local walking group to meet new people and make great friends and memories at the same time.

Local walks in south Somerset and Dorset

In the South West, we are fortunate to have fantastic walking routes. Here’s a couple of our favourites: 

The South West Coast Path is just one example, with stunning views of England’s coastline. This trail offers over 630 miles of route to trek, or if you fancy something smaller, hundreds of circular day walks. Managed by a dedicated staff of volunteers, this trail is not one to miss!

If you’d prefer something more overland, then why not try the breath-taking Macmillan Way West? Starting at the quaint market town of Castle Cary, founded in the 12th century, this walk takes you along the gently rolling hills and open moorland of Somerset and Devon. A great walk to meet people completing the larger Macmillan way, or to pick up some choice local produce as you go.

How to get started

The great thing about walking is you can just get out there and do it, however before you set off on your first epic hike, there are a few things to consider.

1. Choosing the right footwear

Starting from the bottom up you should consider what you’re going to wear on your feet. The British Chiropractic Association recommends choosing shoes with a soft sole that provide good support and grip.

2. Choosing a backpack

If you plan to carry anything on your walk, then a good backpack is essential. You’ll want a bag that spreads the weight equally, so try to avoid shoulder or single strap bags and opt for a good old-fashioned rucksack. Before you leave, make sure you have emptied any unnecessary items from the bag so you don’t carry the extra weight. 

When walking, adjust the straps so that the bag is as close to your back as you can. This means that the weight can be distributed across your back, helping to prevent potential injury.

3. Sun protection

In the warmer months, make sure you bring sun protection. UV rays increase around April and can be particularly harmful to the skin after a lack of exposure during the winter months. A good hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and long sleeve top are essential for any hike in the sunshine. Don’t forget to pack water and some snacks too!

4. Keep good posture

It’s important to keep your posture in mind and to consciously try to straighten and improve your posture as you go. 

Tim Hutchful, from the British Chiropractic Association, explains: “The ideal posture would allow for a plumb line to hang straight through your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Try and stand in a relaxed way but gently contracting your abdominal muscles. The gravity line should pass through the ear, shoulder and hip.” 

For more tips on how to look after your back, read our article here

5. Plan ahead

If you’re already suffering with back or joint pain, avoid surfaces that give way such as soft sand, thick mud, or shingles. Walking on surfaces like this can jar your back and make any existing pain worse. Take time to plan your route so you can make sure you are prepared and can avoid walking in places that you might find difficult. 

6. Get a check up

Before you start walking, make sure you’re physically up to the challenge. We recommend seeing one of our specialists before undertaking any new activity so we can make sure everything is in check. To book an appointment, click here.

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