7 ideas to inspire you to walk more

All movement is good for you. And sometimes, a short walk is all you need to clear you mind and do something great for your body.

When we talk about staying active, many of us forget about the power of a simple walk – yet there are so many physical benefits associated with it. Research by the University of Sydney and the University of Southern Denmark found walking 10,000 steps daily could lower the risk of dementia by 50% and the risk of heart disease and cancer by 30-40%.

And for those who find 10,000 steps daunting, a 2023 study from universities in Poland and the US found that just 2,300 steps a day – about a 20-minute daily walk – can also reduce the risk of heart disease and have a really positive impact on your health.

In fact, walking for just 20 minutes has been shown to increase our mental alertness, energy and positive mood, according to the Mental Health Foundation. It's also beneficial for those who are ageing, as it can help "reduce the risk of illness in both the short and long-term, preserve memory and cognitive ability and reduce the risk of falls".

The best thing about walking is that it's a gentle form of exercise suitable for many of us, including people recovering from illness or surgery, says Katherine Holcroft, Head of Major Projects for Living Streets. Walking has been likened to a "wonder drug", she says, because of its benefits and – unlike other forms of exercise – it's free, simple and easy to integrate into daily life.

"We shouldn't take walking for granted," she says. So how can we inspire people to get out and walk more to enjoy these benefits?

Here are some tips from national walking charities Living Streets and The Ramblers.

Immerse yourself in the present moment

Next time you’re out on a walk, "take time to look around and notice your surroundings, allow your mind time to wander and not pay hard attention to anything,” says Rebecca Birrane, Head of Walking Experience at The Ramblers walking charity.

It can be hard to stay in the present moment at times, we get it, but it does wonders for our mental health. If you're struggling, try to notice three good things you can see in nature around you. A beautiful coloured bird? Leaves blowing gently in the wind?

"There's nothing quite like that uplifting feeling you experience when you notice the first wild buds of the year beginning to flower,” says Rebecca.

Turn it into a game

Walking doesn’t have to be dull. It can be a fun idea to incorporate an activity to encourage you to get out of the house. A great family idea is collecting items in every colour of the rainbow – or pick one particular colour and see how many things you can spot.

Another idea is to count the different types of birdsong you hear, or animals you see. If you do have kids, Living Streets created a walking scavenger hunt, which is a great way to add fun into the mix.

Make it social

Like with any movement, involving friends and family can be a great way to enjoy the experience while also building connections. "Walking in a group and chatting along the way allows you to take in everything together and share the experience," says Rebecca. "You can motivate your friends and family to join you and encourage each other.”

Use walking as an excuse to meet or catch-up with people. If you're looking for a group, the Ramblers offer a wide variety of guided walks you can get involved with.

Make it more of a workout

Fancy supercharging your walks into a higher intensity activity? To increase the difficulty, try walking slightly further each time within a specific time frame, says Katherine, "So, for example, that could mean walking as far as you can in a half-hour lunch break."

Or, try fast walking – also known as power walking – which is another great way to boost your fitness and energy levels. "Try walking on different surfaces and inclines, as it uses different muscles and will strengthen them, too," she suggests.

It might be helpful to note that, on average, adults can manage three miles an hour – so if you do a lot of walking and are looking to increase your tempo you can time yourself walking a known distance at a comfortable tempo and then try to gradually increase this over time to help improve your fitness levels.

Find new places to wander

Your enthusiasm to go for a walk might dwindle if you're constantly walking the same route, seeing the same things. Could you explore somewhere new? Is there somewhere you haven't ventured to before? Could you head on a short drive away to find a new walk?

Across Britain, we're surrounded by ancient woodland, moors and meadows, so challenge yourself to walk in a different environment or explore a new footpath. The Ramblers Routes library has more than 4,000 tried-and-tested routes. From short urban strolls to hillside adventures, there's something for everyone to try, suitable for every level.

Set a challenge

A good way to boost motivation is to set yourself a challenge – so what walking challenge could you set yourself for the next month? Perhaps it's to walk slightly more than you did last month, or try to get out for 10 minutes at least once a day.

"Why not set yourself a target to hit a certain step count collectively in one month?" suggests Rebecca. "You can also get your friends, family or colleagues involved, as this can be a great way to collectively have fun, motivate one another and improve your physical and mental health along the way."

Plan your walk well

Moving should be enjoyable. Walking should be enjoyable, too, so consider the time and places that give you the biggest wellbeing boost to get the most out of every stroll, advises Rebecca. "Perhaps it's an early morning walk to set up your day or you find an evening stroll a great way to wind down after a busy day at work," she says. Remember, studies show that even walking briskly for ten minutes increases mental alertness and positive mood. Plus it's an easy activity that anyone, anywhere can do.

Ultimately, the key is remembering that walking can be a part of daily life, says Katherine. "We can walk to work, walk our kids to school or nursery, walk to the shops. Many of our daily tasks outside the home are within walking distance, and deciding to walk to a friend's house or to visit the GP isn't just good for our bodies, it also helps reduce congestion, road danger and air pollution. It's a win-win."

Don't put pressure on yourself to hit a certain step count every time you head out the door. If you're new to walking, start with walks that aren't too long or strenuous. You'll enjoy the experience and learn what you want to get from walking.

Get inspired to walk in new places or with new people, by visiting Living Streets and The Ramblers.

This article was written by The Body Coach content team.

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