This May is National Walking Month and is the perfect time to get outside, get some exercise and make a positive difference to your health. And if you swap your local car journeys for walking, you can help promote a greener environment too.
Quite simply, walking is one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight (if that’s a goal) and become healthier by moving your body more. It’s often a form of exercise that is overlooked, but walking briskly raises your heart rate making your heart healthier, helps build stamina and burns excess calories. The recommended weekly exercise for adults in the UK is 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week. Brisk walking is moderate intensity activity so walking briskly only 20-25 minutes once a day will see you reach the government’s goal every week.
Being active on a regular basis can reduce the risk of developing dementia, a heart condition, osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes. A brisk walk for 30 minutes every day is said to reduce your risk of stroke by 27%, and helps cholesterol levels too. And if that were not enough, walking can also help you:
- Feel less stressed
- Enjoy nature more
- Sleep better
- Be more energetic
- Increase your self-confidence and mental health
- Make new friends (by joining a walking group)
- Save money (on petrol and transport)
As early years practitioners, walking is also a great way to get the children you look after to be more active too, and walking can be a great way to teach them about the world around them and how to look after it (and themselves) better.
It’s easy to get started walking but if you haven’t exercised for a while, then here are a few tips:
- Make sure that you follow the latest government guidance related to coronavirus restrictions
- Start slowly and build up the distance and speed you walk. Warming up and stretching before exercise can help prevent injuries but walking is generally one of the safest forms of exercise there is. However, do seek medical advice if you, or people in your group have injuries which may be exacerbated by walking
- Wear comfortable shoes or trainers that will provide adequate support for your feet and will not cause blisters
- A brisk walk is walking about 3 mph – faster than a stroll but slower than running although obviously, everyone is different, and the fitter you become, the easier it will be to walk faster
- On longer walks, remember to take some snacks and a drink
- Consider investing in a waterproof jacket or some walking boots if you ‘get the bug’
- If you are walking with young children, make sure you have planned your route carefully – find out where there are toilets or a playground for example, and it is important to do a proper risk assessment taking into account your local area, the associated risks and the needs of the children in your care
- Always follow the Highway Code and the Green Cross Code, observing rights of way whilst respecting private property
Make walking fun
Walking is fun in its own right, but we’ve listed some ways to make your walks even more enjoyable, especially if you are walking with younger children.
1. Vary where you walk
Walking to the local shops and back has its benefits but think too about other places near you. Perhaps you have a canal nearby or some woodlands where you can do a nature trail. Disused railway lines make a good (and flat) walk and there are old railway tracks all over the country that are often traffic-free and usually suitable for bikes, pushchairs and wheelchairs too.
2. Go on a nature walk
Add some fun to your walk by looking out for nature along the way. You could print out a sheet containing local wildlife, minibeasts or trees in your area and see how many you can spot.
3. Take some photos
Not only is taking photos a great way to record your walk, but it lets everyone get a little bit creative too, so why not let the children take some photos and make a display when you get back?
4. Embrace the weather
Different weather often makes for some great walks, for example by creating muddy puddles to jump in or allowing you to make snow angels. The only rule is to make sure that you are prepared for whatever the weather might throw at you, making sure the children will still be safe, warm and dry.
5. Try a heritage walk
A lot of towns now have a heritage or history trail which you can follow to see local historical buildings, architecture or places of special historical or scientific interest.
6. Set up a treasure hunt
Children love treasure hunts so why not use your local area to create a treasure hunt that they can follow? You can make up clues whether you live in the town or the country.
7. Raise some funds for charity
A lot of charities use National Walking Month as a way of generating extra funds so check out your favourite charities to see if you can get involved. The British Heart Foundation runs a Just Walk campaign to coincide with May and they have a lot of resources and ideas on their website too.
8. Join the Little Feet walking challenge
The Little Feet walking challenge is a fun way to encourage families with young children to commit to a healthy lifestyle. It’s run by the walking charity, Living Streets, and is designed for early years settings with the challenge featuring a set of fun and engaging activities covering two themes: People Who Help Us and Minibeasts. You can find more information or buy a resource pack from their website (£35).
Walk to School Week
The 21st – 25th May is also Walk to School Week, where children, parents and teachers are encouraged to walk to school and donate any money they would have spent on travel to a charity, so promote a healthy lifestyle this May by joining in with the week, or the whole month. Whatever you do, share your stories by sending them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources and more information