Last month, my husband (Martin) and I were lucky enough to go to the Glastonbury Festival. You’ll be pleased to hear that we are now fully recovered and managed to survive the hot days (over 90 degrees), the sanitary conditions and the lack of sleep (two hours a night is norm). The site is vast and in the course of a day it’s not uncommon to walk 20 miles between the stages, with plenty of cider breaks along the way. When we eventually got to our tent each night, our feet and legs were sore – we’d certainly got a good work-out.
On the Saturday morning, we arrived at the Pyramid stage to watch the Proclaimers and marched along to “500 miles”, that old classic from the 80s. This got me thinking about the benefits of walking in the great outdoors and how to get involved. When you walk you carry your own body weight, this is referred to as weight-bearing exercise. If you did a brisk walk for 30 minutes at least five days a week, then you will certainly notice the difference. Some of the benefits include:
- Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart/lungs) fitness.
- Reduced risk of a stroke and heart disease.
- Improved balance and stronger bones.
- Increased muscle strength.
- Reduced body fat.
The NHS recommends that 29 to 64 year olds should do two types of physical activity per week – aerobic and strength exercises. Walking and cycling are good ways to take care of the aerobic part and then strength exercises on two days a week to work the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, core, chest, shoulders and arms). If you go onto the NHS site (www.nhs.uk) and select walking you will find plenty of good advice and research material – all pointing to the benefits of walking in leading a healthy and disease-free life.
Walking outside is really refreshing whatever the weather. Martin and I have enjoyed many gorgeous walks in Derbyshire, with the chance to visit new places and we even tried an orientation course once.
Nordic walking has been popular for some years and is a great way to make new friends. This activates 90% of the muscles and burns up an incredible 46% more calories as compared to normal walking. Poles (similar to ski poles) are used to propel you forward. The good news is that Nordic walking can be done by anyone regardless of age or fitness levels and apparently uses the same muscles as swimming (without getting wet).
There are a number of groups in Bedfordshire, so best to search on the web for the nearest one to you. The one I’ve seen out and about is Walk2Fitness organised by Elaine – check out www.walk2fitness.co.uk
So there you have it. What could be better than a brisk walk on a Summer’s evening, who knows there might even be a pub along the way. As always when starting any new form of fitness, please speak to your doctor. Before you know it you would have walked those ‘500 miles’.