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Walking: The perfect pastime?

Walking is a wonderful way to get fit that costs nothing and can be done anywhere.

Whether you walk to work, ramble through the park or fell walk in the Peak District, with a good pair of shoes and a bit of planning, there are innumerable benefits to this form of exercise.

Walking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the UK.

Walking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the UK.

Government statistics show that 86% of adults walk for ten minutes at least once a month, with 43% walking on a weekly basis for recreational purposes, and 47% for ‘utility’, e.g. walking to work or school. This makes it one of the most popular outdoor activities in the UK.

Studies have repeatedly shown that it helps to keep people healthy and improves the mood, and even that walkers can live longer. Regular walking reduces the risk of serious diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma and stroke, and it is an activity that can be undertaken alone or as part of a group.

Walking groups are springing up around the country as a way to make walking a sociable activity that reduces isolation and promotes good mental and physical health. Walking for Health co-ordinates low-impact walking groups across the country for people who may be unwell or unfit, as a way to reintroduce them to physical activity, while the Ramblers Association runs walks for people who want to enjoy the British countryside.

Starting out walking

One of the most attractive aspects of walking as a hobby is how easy it is to start. A decent pair of trainers or walking boots, depending on the terrain, can be all that is needed to get going, while insoles like Pressure Perfect can help to make sure the feet are comfortable and pain-free.

If you are new to walking, start out gently; there’s no point expecting to hike 20 miles up a hill if the furthest you’ve walked for years is to the local supermarket!

Building up gradually is far more likely to lead to a regular, walking habit.

Our walking tips

Get yourself a pedometer and see how many steps you walk on an average day. The recommended minimum number of daily steps is 10,000, so start to aim for this by adding 10- or 15-minute walks every day, when you can. Over time, you can build up to longer or more frequent walks as your fitness and confidence improve.

To keep walking interesting, make sure you vary your routes. If you walk to work, go through different parks or along different paths every day or, if you ramble in the countryside, explore new hills and pathways.

Joining a walking group can really help with motivation, whether you are looking for a group to help you get started or a way to expand your more established walking habits. It turns walking into a social rather than a solitary activity, reducing isolation and encouraging you to keep it up, even when rain is falling or there’s a chill in the air.

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