Walking is better than the gym

Updated January 2021. Published research comparing various keep-fit activities is good news for Cicerone. According to research by Dr Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics and Political Science (2015), a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week is more effective than any other form of exercise for keeping weight down.

Go for a walk using one of our many routes and you could benefit even more.

You walk has to be brisk enough to raise your heart rate and get 'out of breath and slightly red in the face'. The effects are particularly noticeable in women of all ages, but particularly for men and women over the age of 50. The science behind this is that human beings have been walking upright for four million years, and as such it's a more natural behaviour that taps into biological mechanisms. Certainly going on a long-distance walk will have incredible benefits for overall well being, but even the half-hour regime will apparently reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes more effectively than running or jogging.

Calorie burning is apparently optimised when walking because it is a constant, uninterrupted activity – except when you stop to admire the view that is!

Research by Dr Jampolis, a nutrition specialist in the US shows that "regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility,” she says, especially when you're walking through green countryside or soaking in a bit of sunlight. This can be particularly helpful during the colder months, when seasonal depression spikes.

When you make your walks social with your partner, a neighbour, or a good friend, that interaction helps you feel connected which can make you feel happier.

A 2015 research study compared walking with swimming, cycling, working out in the gym, dancing, running, jogging, football, rugby and squash – and even housework. You will be delighted to hear that the housework can take second place to your daily walking...!

Walking is fun and safe
Enjoying a good path in the Lake District near Langdale

Tips for successful walking exercise:

• a good level of exercise is when you can still talk, but cannot sing the words of a song

• you shouldn't exercise for two or three hours after a heavy meal, but can snack on something non-sugary to keep energy up – eg a banana

• start at a gentle pace and speed up once your muscles have warmed through, especially in winter

• drink plenty of water if exercising for more than 30 minutes

• NHS recommends walking, plus two days of strength exercises that work all the major muscles

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