I was recently asked: if I could change anything in my life right now, what would it be? My response was that I would put a big green park smack bang in the middle of Manchester. I would absolutely love to have a big, open, green space within walking distance from my flat, it would get me out walking more, simply for the pleasure. I know that I could get in the car and drive for 30ish minutes to get to some beautiful open spaces, but I don’t get to do this very often.
I find the grey streets of an inner city can be off putting but it is still imperative to walk. I strive for 10,000 steps a day because I know how important it is for my health and wellbeing to move more and sit less. I wrote a previous blog post about the problems associated with spending too much time sitting, but let’s flip that and look at the amazing health benefits of walking. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking can lead to:
- Increased cardiovascular fitness = healthier heart & lung function
- Decreased blood pressure
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes
- Stronger bones – decreased risk of developing osteoporosis
- Improved balance
- Decrease in joint pain, including low back pain
- Reduced body fat
- Decrease risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Increased life expectancy
I love walking for pleasure and as I said before, I would love somewhere in Manchester specifically for this. However, I think the key to ensuring you walk more throughout the day, every single day, is to build it into your routine. Take every opportunity you get to walk and make walking a non-negotiable.
I used to think that an hour in the gym was enough physical activity to make up for the sitting I do every day. I was wrong. I sit at a desk at work, commute to and from work in the car, I sit whilst I eat, whilst I study/read and sit when I plant my butt on the sofa to watch Netflix. Just one hour of exercise will not undo the harmful effects of all that sitting!
I’m embarrassed to say, that I used to drive to the gym because I ‘didn’t have enough time to walk’. The walk to the gym takes about 15 minutes. So walking there and back is just 30 minutes out of my day. The truth was I wasn’t prioritising walking and therefore wasn’t making the time. Now, the 30 minute walk to and from the gym is the norm, I don’t even question it and it adds about 3000 steps to my day, every day.
A patient told me today that she found walking boring, so I suggested that she listens to a podcast or audiobook. However, I think sometimes it’s good to have quiet time. For me, the time I spend walking is a form of meditation, it’s a break
You don’t have to do your brisk 30 minute walk all at once, you can break it up throughout the day. If 30 minutes seems way too much, start smaller, something it better than nothing, but when it comes to walking the more, the better!