Sometimes the right time to make changes is when things are changing already – if you're thinking about retirement, or if you’ve just moved house. If you used to walk to work, what’s the best way to maintain that precious time for exercise and mental space?
Perhaps you are thinking about your health because you’ve had a new diagnosis, or you have other health concerns.
Walking has been shown to be the easiest form of exercise to take up and to maintain, particularly for older people. It’s cheap (in fact, if it replaces bus or car journeys, you will save money) and you already know how to do it.
Where do you go every day, or every week? Do you regularly visit the shops, or a friend’s house, or the leisure centre for a swim or gym session? Perhaps it’s the church, mosque or synagogue, or the library. Perhaps the easiest way to build walking into your life is to walk a journey you’re making already.
Think about the things that make you hesitant to walk a particular journey. Many people have concerns about resting places along a route, or access to public toilets. You might also want to know about steps, and steep up or downhill sections.
Online mapping tools can help with this information. On Google Maps, you can use the 'street view' tool to virtually walk the route, as well as getting an estimate of how long it will take to walk. Openroute Service has a wheelchair route option and tells you what kind of surface the pavement has, as well as how steep it is.
You could also do things the traditional way and ask friends, family and neighbours where there are benches and public toilets available!
You can combine walking with other forms of transport. Walking to the bus stop still 'counts', and so does driving part of the way and walking from where you park.
If you live at the top or bottom of a hill, it’s not cheating to walk the downhill journey and get a bus or taxi uphill! The same goes for walking with shopping. You can work up to the more difficult journey, or just leave it at that.
If you’re thinking about cycling but aren’t confident on some roads, you can always lock your bike up at the end of the route you’re comfortable with, and walk the rest. A bit of walking is better than none!
Walking gives you some time when nobody can 'get to you'. Enjoy the chance to listen to birdsong and let your thoughts wander, or catch up on an audiobook. Walk a journey with a friend or family member and get some uninterrupted time together to chat. Particularly if you’re a carer, or you have a busy schedule or family life, a walk can be the little bit of time to yourself that keeps you fit, calm and able to face the day.
One of the best things about walking a journey is it will always take the same length of time. You won’t get caught in traffic, and you won’t be at the mercy of a bus schedule. So even if it takes a bit longer to walk, if you leave on time, you’ll get there on time.
Download the Small Steps Walking Diary to record your walks, set walking goals, track your progress, and stay motivated to walk!
- Walk at your own pace: it’s not a race and a little walking is better than none!
- Share the joy of walking with someone you know.
- Build your strength: start small and work up to longer walks if you need to.