Wonderful Winter Walks
Let’s face it; it’s hard to beat the invigorating sensation of a brisk walk on a cold winter’s day, and that feeling of comfort and warmth once you’re back inside with a well earned hot drink! From 20th December until 4th January, the Ramblers charity are running the Festival of Winter Walks – guided walks by charity representatives which will be available across the UK. There will be shorter trails as well as more challenging hikes, and some are even themed to add to the fun! What better way to burn off the Christmas excess and appreciate the scenery that only appears during the colder months.
And if all of this isn’t reason enough to wrap up and enjoy the outdoors, here are 10 reasons why walking is such a fantastic boost to your health:
- t strengthens your heart - Regular walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It lowers levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and keeps blood pressure in check.
- It lowers disease risk - As well as heart disease, a walking habit can slash your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, asthma and some cancers. A study in the British Medical Journal showed taking more steps every day can help ward off diabetes. And according to the charity Walking For Health, regular exercise such as walking could reduce risk by up to 60 per cent. Those of us who are active have around a 20 per cent lower risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast and womb than those least active.
- It keeps weight in check – we all know that regular exercise helps keep us at a healthy weight. A brisk walk can burn 150 calories in 30 minutes, the equivalent of a jam doughnut!
- It can help prevent dementia - Dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80. We know being active has a protective effect on brain function and regular exercise reduces dementia risk by up to 40 per cent. And, according to Age UK, older people who walk six miles or more per week could avoid brain shrinkage and so preserve memory as the years pass.
- Prevents Osteoporosis – walking is a weight bearing activity, which helps to strengthen bones and increase their density. Particularly important to women, and it can even help your joints stay supple to keep arthritis at bay.
- It tones your leg, bum and tum! – A good walk, particularly a hilly one, is great for toning up your legs and bottom. If you hold a good posture while walking, it also helps keep your tummy in check.
- Don’t forget your arms – swinging your arms while walking keeps momentum and speed up, and has the welcome effect of tackling those bingo wings!
- It boosts your Vitamin D levels - If you’re walking outside in daylight, you’ll be boosting your body’s stores of vitamin D – a nutrient that’s hard to get from food, but that we can synthesise from exposure to sunlight. Many people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D and it’s a nutrient that plays a big role in everything from bone health to immunity.
- It gives you energy - It might seem like a paradox (and the last thing you might feel like) but a brisk walk is one of the best natural energizers around. It boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to each and every cell in your body, helping you to feel more alert and alive. It wakes up stiff joints and eases muscle tension so you feel less sluggish. Always have a mid-afternoon energy slump at work? Head out for a walk at lunchtime instead of sitting in a café or at your desk and see what a difference it makes.
- It makes you happy - The ability of exercise to boost mood is undisputed. Studies have shown regular, moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) to be as effective as antidepressants in cases of mild to moderate depression. Getting active releases feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety. And don’t forget it’s often a social activity – joining a walking group or meeting friends to walk and chat is a great way to banish feelings of isolation and loneliness.