Walking to fitness

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HOW often do you put your best foot forward and get the exercise you need?

Recent studies show less than two in five people in England are meeting the current recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and even fewer people aged 65 years and over are sufficiently active.

But experts at national charity Heart Research UK have issued advice for people to change their ways.

A spokesman said: “Walking is a free, simple, effective and safe way for people of all ages to improve activity levels and lead a healthier lifestyle.

“It is a great way to improve fitness levels and can help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma and stroke, as well as several cancers.

“Walking also helps to keep healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, control weight and enhance your overall well-being.

“As spring and lighter evenings are just around the corner, Heart Research UK has some helpful tips to set you on the road to regular walking.”

l Walking with family or a group of friends will make it more enjoyable, and help people get over the idea that walking is just exercise.

l Make sure your walking shoes are comfortable and provide sufficient support so you can walk further for a healthier heart and enjoy the experience for longer.

l Take a backpack on long walks with water for hydration and healthy snacks such as fruit, unsalted nuts and vegetable crudités for energy, as well as a high factor sunscreen for skin protection.

l If you’re new to walking, start out slowly and gradually build up to at least 30 minutes on most days to achieve the recommended physical activity levels.

l Use a pedometer to track your progress and aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.

l Walking at moderate intensity is a very effective way to improve heart-health. That means walking at an intensity that increases the heart rate and makes you feel slightly breathless and several degrees warmer.

l For those looking for something more vigorous, sign up for an organised walking event such as Heart Research UK’s Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, Ben Nevis Climb or Walk For All to set yourself a real fitness challenge.

The spokesman added: “The time has come to put on your walking shoes, step out and explore the big, green outdoors for a brighter and healthier future.

For more information, contact Heart Research on (0113) 2347474 or email lifestyle@heartresearch.org.uk