Walking for health this winter

The colder it gets, the less likely we are to venture outdoors. But while staying cooped up may help keep us warm, there are numerous health benefits of taking a bracing winter walk. So this year, why not take advantage of the Ramblers Festival of Winter Walks?

The festival runs from December 23, 2017 to January 7, 2018, when there’s a good chance you’ll get to experience a beautiful wintry landscape.

According to the British Heart Foundation, walking is one of the best ways of achieving the recommended 150 minutes a week of physical activity. And if you walk briskly enough to get your heart pumping and feel slightly breathless it can also reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, stroke, osteoporosis and diabetes.

Getting outdoors and having a walk can give your mood a boost too, as exercise helps release feel-good hormones called endorphins. Plus it burns calories – which may be useful if you’ve had one too many sausage rolls at the office party. And if you go walking in the country or on different terrains or surfaces your leg muscles will get a great work-out, as they have to work harder to stabilise your joints.

The Festival of Winter Walks includes walks for people of all ages and abilities. There are shorter walks for those who aren’t used to doing a lot of exercise and longer routes if you fancy a challenge. And if you’re out walking with your family over the holidays there are also festive-themed walks aimed at keeping your little ones entertained.

You can join a group or find your own ideal winter walk from the Ramblers’ online library of more than 2,750 walking routes. Find out more by visiting the Ramblers’ website.

Tips for walkers

If you’re new to exercise or you have a health condition, don’t forget to check with your GP that it’s safe to start being more physically active. Next, make sure you have the right type of footwear to walk in, especially if there’s any snow or ice around (choose shoes or boots with non-slip or grooved soles). Wrap up well too, not forgetting your gloves, scarf and a warm hat. Also ask your local Careway pharmacist if they stock products called hand warmers, which may be useful if it’s particularly cold.

It’s a good idea to wear several thinner layers under your coat than one thick bulky layer, as you can always take a layer off if you get too warm. And if you’re out walking in snow on a bright day you may need sunglasses to protect your eyes against reflective glare. Also stay safe by taking your mobile phone with you and also letting others know where you’re going and which route you’ll be taking.

Here are some more tips from the British Heart Foundation to help get you out and about this winter:

  • If you’re a beginner start off at a level that suits you, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.
  • If you’re moderately fit, try interval walking. Start by walking at a moderate intensity (you should feel warmer and breathe harder than normal but still be able to carry on a conversation). Then speed up so you’re walking vigorously for a minute, then return to moderate intensity. Keep varying your speed in this way during your walk. And as your fitness improves, start walking for longer and further.
  • If you’re very fit, vary your terrain to make it more challenging. And if you’re going on a long walk, don’t forget to take a bottle of water and perhaps also something to eat while you’re out. Always stretch after a long walk to help prevent muscle aches.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.