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Better health? It’s a walk in the park

Published: 07 May 2021

Image of person walking through bluebells

Movement matters

May marks National Walking Month so why not make a conscious effort to head out for a stroll – you'll soon feel the benefits.

Head for the hills

Surrey is blessed with some great walks and there's no better time to enjoy them than when nature is blooming. Avoid hotspots like Newlands Corner or Frensham Pond and discover a new route by visiting our Surrey's Countryside web page. You'll find something to suit you from easy circular walks to details of longer challenges like the North Downs Way or Thames Path.

If you need an accessible route, you'll find a few wheelchair-friendly ideas on the accessible countryside website.

Parents or carers of those with a sensory impairment might want to download the excellent Walks Toolkit from Sense.

Grab your fill of green from your doorstep

Study after study reports on the positive effects of getting out into local green spaces. Experiencing nature is proven to help us relax and recent data from the Office for National Statistics showed that over 40% of us say it's been more important for our wellbeing than ever through lockdowns.

Even a circuit of the park can reset your mood by boosting serotonin levels, while the sunlight will encourage your body to produce more vitamin D, meaning stronger bones.

Michael Moseley is just one of those who swears by a daily walk year-round, and his short BBC Sounds podcast on how an early morning stroll can bring health benefits is well worth a listen.

Strengthen your family/social life

Walking is one of the few physical activities you can do as a family or with friends and have a chat at the same time. Older kids may grumble at the thought of being 'dragged out' but even they can be persuaded of its merits. As James, 15, says "Walking doesn't require you to think and it stops you being glued to your phone all the time. It's a good way to have a chat with your mates (or even your family if there's no-one else!)"

If you've got younger children, having an extra activity to keep them busy when you're on a walk can be handy: play i-spy, create a scavenger hunt or print off an Activity Bingo card which can be found on the Active Surrey website (or create your own).

Health condition? No reason to miss out

Provided you follow your doctor's advice and are mindful of how you feel there's no reason you can't head out for a walk. Whether you have a heart problem, cancer, asthma or other physical condition, walking can play a part in helping you boost your health, naturally.

Taking a stroll can help those with mental health problems too and it's never too late to start as this BBC article on 84 year old Jim shows. If you don't have anyone to walk with, many local councils have guided walk programmes, or check out the walking for health website.

Walking doesn't have to be an 'event'

If you're out of shape or just want to avoid health problems, developing a regular walking habit is just about the best place to start. Instead of jumping into the car to pick up a few essentials, take a wander instead, or commit to taking a stroll each night before dinner.

If you need extra motivation the free NHS Active 10 app breaks walks down into 10 minute chunks and offers tips which can help. It's already been downloaded by 800,000 people so give it a try if you'd like to monitor your progress.

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