02 May 2018
May is National Walking Month, and Doctor Maria Finnegan, private GP at Spire Washington Hospital (and an enthusiastic walker herself), is keen to highlight the benefits of walking as a gentle and effective form of exercise for people of all ages. Here, she explains the benefits:
“What do you think of, when you think of ‘exercise’? A jog around the park? Sweating it out at the gym until you’re red-faced and exhausted? How about walking? How many of us think of the humble walk as ‘exercise’?
“There are few patients who leave my consulting room without me trying to persuade them into becoming more active. While any form of exercise is great, for many people, walking can be the perfect fit. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits:
- It takes very little preparation - Unlike other forms of exercise, with walking, all you need is a pair of supportive trainers and… That’s it! For most of us, with planning, there is no reason why shoes can’t be swiftly switched at lunch-time to allow for a brisk 20 to 30 minute walk around the block before getting back to work. This is something I often do, and along with the hidden health benefits, such as keeping my blood pressure and cholesterol levels healthy, this allows me to return to my afternoon clinic feeling refreshed and raring to go.
- It’s easy to incorporate into your daily life - Little changes such as getting off the bus or train a few stops early and walking the rest of the way, or taking the stairs instead of the lift, can all add up to big health benefits, without impacting on your day to day routine.
- Regular walking can help us to maintain a healthy weight which in turn can help us to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All of these factors in turn, reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes or having a stroke or heart attack.
- Its gentle on your joints - Regular walkers get similar cardiovascular and general health benefits to runners, but without any of the strains or sprains to muscles and joints that runners are prone to.
- It protects your bones - Walking helps to strengthen your bones, which reduces the risk of Osteoporosis and fractures.
- The benefits for our mental health shouldn’t be underestimated either. Walking has been shown to lower stress levels and for me personally, I find listening to music as I walk a great way to relax after a busy day.
- You’ll sleep better - All forms of exercise help to promote better sleep which in turn, has countless health benefits.
- It’s free - Need I say more?
"So, if you’re one of the millions of people who knows you should be more active, but doesn’t quite know how or where to start, please do consider walking. With just 30 minutes of walking, five times a week, you’ll soon reap the benefits for both your body and mind.”