Walk faster, stay healthy

New figures from Public Health England show that an alarmingly high level of people aged between 40 and 60 are dangerously inactive. Regular brisk walks are good for you, and just 10 minutes a day can reduce the risk of early death by 15%. But Public Health England estimates that four out of every 10 people in this age group do not even manage a brisk 10-minute walk each month! 

A brisk walk is defined as one of at least three miles an hour that makes you breath faster and increases your heart rate.

According to the new figures, we are 20% less active than we were in the 1960s and walk 15 miles less a year than we did 20 years ago. Simple changes to our lifestyles – walking to the shops instead of driving, a walk during your lunch break – can help people to reach that goal of 10 minutes of brisk walking every day.

This can start to make a positive difference to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety and problems such as back pain.

It can also help people along the road to reaching the Public Health England recommendation of 150 minutes of activity each week. 

If you’re planning a serious stroll make sure your body is ready and you are prepared. Paul Soley, Physiotherapy Manager at Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre, offers his advice.

Look at your feet

You need to look after your feet. Walking boots should be light and supportive, and always wear proper walking socks. If your boots are new, break them in before you start serious walking. Good footwear is the best foundation for a good walk.

Warm up

Before your walk, make sure your muscles and joints are ready for action. Build up your strength gradually before walking any distance, and always start a walk with a thorough warm up session – that way you are less likely to injure yourself.

Take it long, short and slow

If you’re new to serious walking, give yourself plenty of preparation time and take things slowly to start off with. Start with short distances and build up to longer distances.

Be prepared

It sounds obvious advice, but if you’re new to a walk take a map and make sure you know where you are going – that includes doing some research into the sort of terrain and gradients you are likely to encounter. Make sure you are dressed for the walk – if you are climbing hills or crossing rivers, a pair of flip-flops, shorts and a tee-shirt might not be the best option. If you need extra support, take a purpose-designed walking stick with you – it doesn’t have to be expensive. Always let people know where you are going and how long you expect to be away, and take a mobile phone with you.

Remember to drink – and eat

Always take on plenty of fluids when you are walking. A mixture of water and energy/electrolyte type drinks are recommended. There a multitude to choose from and you should use whatever suits you best. You may be walking for several hours, so unless you have scheduled a break (at a favourite pub perhaps!) make sure you have something to eat as you go – that way you will maintain energy levels.

If you’re injured

Stop – do not try to push yourself. Apply standard first aid treatment for small injuries. For the more serious injury call the emergency services. To assist with your recovery seek treatment from a registered physiotherapist and follow their advice – it is easy to undo their good work by returning to training too soon.

As an NHS patient you can choose to have your treatment at Peninsula NHS Treatment Centre – discuss your treatment with your GP and if they agree that you need treatment, ask them to refer you. More information is available by visiting www.peninsulatreatmentcentre.nhs.uk.