At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic we were all asked to remain inside to prevent the spread of the virus and to help save lives. We were also told that we were allowed to go out briefly once a day to exercise. This led to a huge increase in the number of people doing an often overlooked and undervalued form of exercise… Walking. Walking a good form of exercise for people of all ages. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend that everyone should aim to do 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week and walking can be a really good way to meet this target. As with all forms of exercise, there are numerous health benefits from adding walking to your routine. Here is a brief list highlighting of the benefits of walking.It builds strength
Walking regularly can help strengthen muscles and increase muscle bulk. As we get older, we generally lose strength through a process called sarcopenia. However, this doesn’t mean that our muscles are doomed to waste away. this process can be halted through regular exercise such as walking. Over the years I have seen countless patients who have maintained a very high level of strength and fitness well into their 70s and 80s. They often achieve this by incorporating exercise into their daily or weekly routine. More often than not, walking is a cornerstone of this routine.
It is good for preventing falls
As we get older, a fall can be a life effecting or life threatening event. Because of this, a lot of research has been done on how best to prevent or reduce the risk of falls. Some of the key elements findings of this research is that maintaining or improving strength and regular walking can significantly reduce someone’s risk of falling.
It’s low impact
One big benefit of walking is that it is a low impact form of exercise. A lot of the patients that I have seen over the years have been suffering with numerous health issues that make it difficult for them to do things like running or heavy resistance training. In these situations I often discuss the option of a graded walking programme. Even in cases of hip and knee arthritis, walking can be a good way of maintaining strength and cardiovascular fitness. In addition to this, walking regularly can help reduce arthritic pain.
You can work hard, or you can take it easy.
Much like any form of exercises, there are different approaches to walking. You don’t need to be extremely fit or strong to get started and the vast majority of people will be able to go for a short walk at a leisurely pace. This doesn’t mean that all walks need to be gently. Walking up and down Hills off the beaten track will be a challenge for anyone. The Thorpes clinic in Sandhurst is a stones throw away from Swinley Forrest which has some challenging routes for walkers.
Mental health benefit
Much like many other forms of exercise, walking has shown to be beneficial for maintaining your mental health. However, where you walk may have a big impact on these effects. Some studies have shown that walking in a more scenic environment such as a forest can have a bigger impact on stress and anxiety when compared with walking in a less scenic environment. I can’t say that this wouldn’t be the same for running, but I would image you would have more time to appreciate the scenery while walking compared with running.
It’s free… mostly
One of the most useful things about walking is that you can do it almost anywhere and it doesn’t require lots expensive equipment. Although, you might want some comfy shoes and if you are planning on going off the beaten track, you may want to invest in some good walking boots.
So how do I get started?
If you are new to walking my advise would be the same as with starting any new form of exercise. Start small and progress at your own pace. If you haven’t done any recreational walking in recent years you don’t want to start off with a 5 mile walk over some hills. Start with a shorter distances and then gradually increase them. Go at your own pace and take your time. Some people may feel anxious about going on a walk by themselves, but there is the option of joining a walking group. Make sure you plan your route in advanced so that you don’t get lost. You may want to consider a route that has some optional rest stops.
Promoting walking and physical activity is often a key principle of rehabilitation at Thorpes Physiotherapy. If you are having any issues with your mobility or concerns about returning to being physically active, don’t be afraid to contact us so we can help you live a healthy and active life.
If you would like more information about our services, please call the clinic on 01276 37670. If you would like to book a session then this can also be done online by clicking the image below
Thanks for reading
Dom Walcott (BSc MCSP SRP)
Clinical Lead at Thorpes Physiotherapy