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Walking – get started and stay motivated!

So, you want to take up walking? Well done on getting to this page for all the information you might need to get started. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get you fitter and healthier.

Many people take up walking as their first step in maintaining or improving their health. It can vary from a gentle stroll to a brisk walk or hike in the hills, but it doesn’t generally require much skill or technical equipment and it’s suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

With regular walking you’ll find it can tone up your muscles (legs, bums and tums) and burn calories to help you maintain or lose weight. Walking at a pace where you are breathing harder than normal and feeling warmer can improve your aerobic fitness and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as their risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Many people find that walking with groups of people is good for socialising and improves their overall mental health and wellbeing.

Staying motivated
Once you get started find ways to keep going. These are ideas that people have shared with us:

  • Change your walking route from time to time
  • Walk with a friend/family member
  • Make it a habit and include walking in your daily routine – walk the dog, walk to work, take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the shops
  • Take up a walking challenge/join an event
  • Try walking in the countryside
  • Start a training plan and track your success
  • Join a walking club or group

How much walking should I be doing?

Walking is a great way to stay active on a daily basis. In general people should aim to walk around 10,000 steps every day. Most people do around 3,000-4,000 steps a day. If you try to include walking in your daily routine you should be able to reach the target of 10,000 steps relatively easily.

Being physically active can include any activity that makes you breathe harder than normal. Recommendations are set out in the table below:

Age Activity recommendation
Babies/toddlers (not walking) Encourage floor based play and safe water based activity
Pre-school (capable of walking) At least 180 minutes of activity a day
5-18 years old At least 60 minutes a day of moderate* to vigorous** intensity activity
19 and over Any one of the following:

– 30 min of moderate intensity activity on 5 days of the week

– 150 min of moderate intensity a week

– 75 min of vigorous intensity activity a week

– Combinations of moderate and vigorous activity across the week

*moderate activity = breathing harder than normal and feeling warmer

**vigorous activity = heart beating rapidly and breathing is hard

You might also want to think about how you can eat well while walking as an activity, so read on for our healthy nutritional tips and ideas.

Eating well

There are no specific dietary requirements for people taking up walking as their choice of physical activity. The key aim is to go for a healthy balanced diet containing plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grain starchy foods at every meal, moderate amounts of milk and dairy products and moderate amounts of meat, fish, eggs and beans. Fatty and sugary foods offer more variety to your diet but these foods can contain a lot of calories in only a small amount, and very little in other nutrients. These foods should be eaten occasionally and in small portions. For more information on a healthy balanced diet visit The Eatwell Guide

Burning calories

Your body needs a daily supply of energy for every day needs (day to day functions such as breathing and moving about). You use up more energy when you do physical activity. The amount of energy you need will vary from person to person and it will depend on age, sex, size, body composition and the level of activity you do. The more vigorous the activity the more energy you use.

Weight gain happens when you regularly eat more than you need and don’t do enough activity so excess energy is stored as fat. Weight loss happens when your body doesn’t get sufficient energy or if you use up more energy than you put in.

The amount of energy in food and drink is measured in calories. It can help to know the amount of energy in different food and drink as this can help you manage your weight, but it’s important not to get too bogged down with the detail with calorie counting everything you eat. The main point for optimal health is to ensure you choose a varied diet containing nutritious foods from the four key food groups in the right proportions. If you include more activity in your daily life ensure you choose the right type of carbohydrate foods to provide you with sufficient energy.

If you decide to take on a walking event, such as the popular annual Dudley Trail, try these nutritional tips for medium and long distance walking events