Gentle walking: Why a stroll is better than a power walk

Ditch the Lycra and douse the burn…

  • Find out why good health isn’t about breaking sweat
  • How you could add years to your life
  • This is why a rambling newsletter makes sense after all

The last week was an incredibly busy one for me, so forgive me if today’s letter rambles a bit as I do feel a little fazed.

Lara and I have been on a tour of the UK visiting friends and relatives now that the restrictions imposed over the last two years have ceased.

Over the course of the week I made stops in Scotland, England and Wales as I hauled the majority of the family with me to show our faces after a long winter confinement.

My sons remained at home due to work ties but myself, Lara and our dear daughter saw more than our fair share of the motorways and byways of the country to last us for a while.

When I eventually got home on Monday I felt shattered, but was greeted by the dog who was full of enthusiasm and clearly in need of a walk…

…just what I needed!

Anyway, I set out with the warm breeze in my face and actually found myself beginning to enjoy the feeling of stretching and moving.

Having spent several days at the wheel and sleeping in strange beds, the effect of walking really did begin to relax tired and aching muscles, loosened tight shoulders and eased my stiffened neck.

By the time I got back home I felt pretty good.

This set me thinking about some of the recent health reports I had been looking at which were extolling the virtues of brisk walking for at least 20 minutes every day.

As I plodded along behind the excited dog I couldn’t really describe my activity as brisk, in fact with aching bits everywhere it was painfully slow to begin with, but I did speed up slightly as my tight body loosened.

However, whilst the health scientists were all over the concept of getting the heart to pump faster and harder as being the major beneficial effect from a walk, I think there is more to be gained from the simple act of moving.

The move to renewed health

From the outset I don’t want to disagree with the thinking that getting out of breath every day is a good way to stimulate our heart and lungs and will lead to all sorts of healthy benefit.

But I think that this type of promotion actually puts off more people than it helps.

You see I now realise that the world splits into two camps – those who are happy to push themselves along…

…and the rest of us who want to be in better shape but frequently find the high intensity, Lycra clad and drenched with sweat look ever so slightly off putting!

On my travels around the place I saw any number of runners, cyclists and speed walkers toiling with an earnest look on their faces as they strained every sinew to achieve a personal best or burn away the calories in pursuit of the perfect body.

But whilst I recognise and would stoutly support any who do such activities I also realise that as a man of a certain age and shape my days of figure hugging bottom waving at passing traffic is not to be encouraged!

Much better is the shabby dog walking coat and comfortable old boots setting out on a steady saunter across the fields.

This is something that I can achieve with minimal preparation, no cost and rarely needing high energy gels to sustain me in my progress (I admit the occasional mint humbug does no harm though!).

Such an approach to exercise, if that is what this is, can be achievable by virtually anyone and, more importantly, anywhere.

Wherever we are in the world there will be a bit of outdoor that we can walk on. Pavements, beaches and fields are usually to be found within reach of most of us.

All it takes is to grab a pair of comfy shoes and hit the track.

The rambling point

Of course you can take this type of thing to a more organised level if you choose to join a local ramblers or walking group.

But if the prospect of spending your days with others in bobble hats and stout boots doesn’t float your boat then just get out there on your own.

Walking really isn’t a difficult thing to do.

Once you get a rhythm going it becomes surprisingly easy to cover distance and get a chance to explore some of the natural wonders that our localities contain.

Plus, that easy stride is the key to making you feel great.

As I said, I am convinced that it is not about going further or faster, just about setting things in motion.

For a start when you are on the move you are not sitting – which may sound like a pretty obvious thing to say, but it is really important when you realise that by being immobile you increase your risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular problems and even cancer.

So any way to break the cycle of sitting has to be a good thing.

A 2015 study published by the American Journal of Nephrology concluded that just by standing up and moving for two minutes every hour increases your life expectancy by a third, compared to those who don’t.

In addition this type of simple weight bearing activity helps preserve our bones, activates muscles and helps minimise the risk of developing osteoporosis.

There are so many recorded and proven health benefits linked to just getting up and moving, which if you manage to do in the outdoors will be enhanced by mental stimulation, exposure to vitamin D generating sunlight and the chance to meet others for a nice natter.

So as I said, this newsletter was always going to be a bit of a ramble… maybe you might like to join me too?