Walking is a fantastic way to keep fit and healthy: it is free and accessible to all, no special equipment is needed, and you can do it from your door step. Regular 30 minutes a day of brisk walking, five times a week has been scientifically proven to reduce cholesterol, heart disease, strokes, diabetes as well as a host of other health issues.

Walking and your physical health

Walking is a low-impact activity, making it one of the safest ways to exercise without putting strain on your muscles or joints. This makes walking a great form of exercise for older people or those with reduced physical abilities. As well as higher energy and stamina levels other physical benefits of walking include:

  • Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
  • Prevention of osteoporosis
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Improved management of conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
  • Improved balance
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance
  • Weight management / weight loss – walking an extra 20 minutes each day will burn off seven pounds of body fat per year

Walking and your mental health

As well as the physical benefits of walking, it can also be an activity that improves mental health by:

  • Reducing stress
  • Increasing time spent outdoors and in fresh air
  • Allowing you to be present and mindful whilst walking
  • In older people, staying active can improve cognitive function, memory, attention and processing speed, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia

Walking and socialising

Walking can be a very social activity, from just speaking to passers by/other walkers to actually joining a walking group. There are various walking groups throughout Northern Ireland. You can find a centralised list of available groups, how to contact them, and how to join here them here: http://www.walkinginyourcommunity.com/join-a-group/ or here:  http://www.walkni.com/clubs/

Some of the areas they include are:

  • Omagh
  • Carnlough
  • Cookstown
  • Belfast
  • Newry
  • Lisburn
  • Strabane
  • Lurgan
  • Banbridge
  • Aghalee
  • Dromore
  • Ballymena
  • Antrim
  • Carrickfergus
  • Glenariffe
  • Maghera
  • Londonderry
  • Garvagh
  • Larne
  • Ballyclare

So you are bound to find one near you. 

How do I start?

The easiest way to start walking is to build it into your normal everyday routine.

  • If you work you could go for a walk at lunchtime – this can give you an energy boost for the afternoon
  • If you live close enough to work or the shops you could you could walk there instead of driving
  • If you get the bus you could get off a stop earlier than usual
  • Make an effort to walk up flights of stairs, rather than using a lift

If you start to build walking into your routine and then want to take it further you can look to join some of the walking groups mentioned above.

Where should I walk?

Of course one of the benefits of walking is that you can do it anywhere however if you are looking for inspiration for your next walk you can click here or here to view some of Northern Ireland’s well trodden paths. These trails vary in length and intensity, so you can pick the one that suits you.