Switching on my radio this morning, I was really struck by some startling figures released by officials from Public Health England (PHE) about the amount of walking we are doing – or rather, not doing! I should say that the stats don’t relate to Wales, but they surely make thought-provoking reading for all of us.
Perhaps the most startling statistic is this one – PHE estimates that four out of every 10 people aged between 40 and 60 take a brisk 10-minute walk less than once a month. Just take a moment to think about that. For whatever reason, these people are not walking briskly for ten minutes every day – or every week. They are not even managing to do it reliably once a month.
I found myself wondering what was going on for this group (and I’m in this age category myself). It may be no coincidence, I thought, that this is the so-called ‘sandwich generation’, frequently juggling caring responsibilities for both children and parents. And if you are working, work/life balance can be an issue too. Time for looking after ourselves can be very hard to find, and when you already feel pressured and tired, the idea that you might add in some exercise can feel very daunting – yet another thing that you ‘ought’ to do. Ideally we should all be doing 150 minutes of activity a week, but nearly half of us aged between 40 and 60 are failing to achieve that.
We know that 1 in 6 deaths is linked to inactivity, so how can we find achievable ways of tackling this?
Well, the good news is that it isn’t difficult to start making inroads towards a healthier lifestyle. We can achieve a 15% reduction in the risk of early death from at least one brisk 10 minute walk per day, according to Public Health England. So if you leave your office at lunchtime every day, walk to the shops more often, get off the bus or train one stop early and walk the rest of the way, walk the dog at a bit of a pace, or speed up a bit when you are walking the kids to school, you can make a major improvement to your health.
To help us do this, PHE are promoting a free app – Active 10 – which can monitor how much walking we are doing, and provide tips on how to build walking into our daily routines.
You might be wondering what they mean by a ‘brisk’ pace. According the BBC, it is defined as a walk of at least 3mph, that leaves you breathing faster and increases your heart rate.
That brisk ten minute walk will start to make an impact on high blood pressure, diabetes, weight issues, depression, anxiety, and musculoskeletal problems such as lower back pain.
Why not take a few moments right now to think about where that brisk walking could fit into your life? Make a plan today, and try to stick with it. Even if you don’t feel like walking when you set off, you know that you are very likely to be glad that you did it. It might even turn into some much-valued ‘me time’.
And take the opportunity to enjoy being outdoors, knowing that you are making a really positive impact on your long-term health.
Hilary Green, Staff Wellbeing Officer