Walking for Wellbeing

I’m a bit of a exercisephobe, I hate running, gyms, swimming (I swear it gives me thrush) and most other forms of exercise. I do enjoy walking though and as I get older I increasingly see the value of walking for wellbeing. My health and muscle tone suffer significantly during periods of inactivity.

As the owner of the world’s laziest dachshund, my walks usually involve dragging the dog along and whilst I don’t want to enter the walking Olympics, I do want to get a bit fitter, healthier and trimmer in 2021. Be gone Covid stone. (Half a stone, but it feels like more).

The benefits of walking for wellbeing

Walking is free, simple and apart from sensible shoes and practical weather wear you don’t need any equipment.

The benefits include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Heart Health
  • Boosts Immunity
  • Improves Mental Health
  • Boosts Energy
  • Improves Muscle Tone
  • Build Stamina

This all sounds very good but should we be walking 10,000 steps a day or attempt 30 minutes of speed walking? The internet is full of ‘experts’ and theories.

How Much and How Fast?

According to the NHS, adults (aged 19-65) should:

– aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still

-do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week

-do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week

-reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity.

Exercise – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Apparently, a brisk walk is about 3 miles an hour, which is faster than a stroll but, if like me, you have no idea how fast 3mph is an App or tracker can help.

Apps and Trackers

Of course, you could buy a Fit Bit but since most of us carry our phones everywhere a free app seems like a sensible option. I personally use The Active 10 App. You can learn about it here.

So, in theory if walking is your only form of exercise you should be walking briskly for 150 minutes a week (the NHS does suggest mixing it up). 25 minutes of brisk walking a day and you’re there.

So, what about 10,000 steps each day?

A while ago 10,000 steps a day was touted as the gold standard of walking but for many people, 10,000 steps are inpractical and unobtainable.

The magic number “10,000” dates back to a marketing campaign conducted shortly before the start of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. A company began selling a pedometer called the Manpo-kei: “man” meaning 10,000, “po” meaning steps and “kei” meaning meter. It was hugely successful and the number seems to have stuck.

Do we need to walk 10,000 steps a day? – BBC Future

There is limited research on the number of steps walked and their benefits (if you’re really interested click here) this study generally found that the more steps walked the better the benefits but there was a plateau at 7,500 steps.

Findings  In this cohort study of 16 741 women with a mean age of 72 years, steps per day were measured over 7 days. Women who averaged approximately 4400 steps/d had significantly lower mortality rates during a follow-up of 4.3 years compared with the least active women who took approximately 2700 steps/d; as more steps per day were accrued, mortality rates progressively decreased before leveling at approximately 7500 steps/d.

Meaning  More steps taken per day are associated with lower mortality rates until approximately 7500 steps/d.

Author: I-Min Lee, MBBS, ScD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School

The Psychological Effect of Failing to walk 10,000 steps per day

I’ve failed to walk 10,000 steps more time than I’ve managed to and it’s disheartening and demotivating. For me, tracking steps takes the pleasure out of walking and disincentivises my endeavours.

Supplementing Walking.

It is also recommended that we include strengthening activities at least twice a week. For me this is Yoga with Adriene or 15 minutes HIIT with Joe Wicks, both offer free online classes that require little or no equipment. Both Adriene and Joe are likeable characters who cater for every ability. You can find Adriene here and Joe here

Walking for Wellbeing – In Conclusion

There appears to be no golden number of steps but without doubt the more active we are, the healthier we are. Exercise (in this instance walking) must be enjoyable to be maintained. Consistently failing to reach a target is neither enjoyable nor motivational. So, in my humble opinion, walk as often as you can and as briskly as you can but avoid adding pressure by setting a target or at least an unachievable target.

Happy and healthy walking everyone. Stay safe and stay well.

Please note – I am not medically trained. Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise plan.

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