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Walking for health

Do you think of walking as a mode of transport? We take it for granted because most of us do it every day, but it's a great way to get around, it'll save you money, you'll enjoy and explore your surroundings and it's the simplest way to keep fit.

Walking is great for people of all ages and research proves that regular walking:

  • Is a great way to stay in shape.
  • Will reduce the risk of chronic illnesses.
  • Can save you lots of money – there's no need to pay gym fees and you could reduce your petrol/travel costs.
  • Will refresh your mind and boost your body.

We should ideally walk 10,000 steps a day (you can walk 1,000 steps in around ten minutes) – much less than you think once you get going. Why not try incorporating one of these simple measures into your daily routine to increase the amount you walk and see if you notice the difference?

  • Walk part of your journey to work.
  • Walk to the shops.
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Leave the car behind for short journeys.
  • Walk the kids to school.
  • Do a regular walk with a friend. 
  • Go for a stroll with family or friends after dinner.

Gradually build up your daily steps - you'll soon start to reap the rewards. All you need is a comfy pair of shoes, so give it a go and enjoy the benefits it will bring to your life. 

Starting out

Start slowly and try to build your walking regime gradually. To get the maximum health benefits from walking, it needs to be of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. In other words, it needs to be faster than a stroll.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you're walking fast enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell is that you'll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favourite song.

Recommended  moderate-intensity aerobic activity levels

Try to walk 10,000 steps a day. Most of us walk between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day anyway, so reaching 10,000 isn't as daunting as it might sound.

If, to begin with, you can only walk fast for a couple of minutes, that's fine. Don't overdo it on your first day. You can break up your activity into 10-minute chunks, as long as you're doing your activity at a moderate intensity. Start every walk slowly and gradually increase your pace. After a few minutes, if you're ready, try walking a little faster. 

Towards the end of your walk, gradually slow down your pace to cool down. Finish off with a few gentle stretches, which will help improve your flexibility.

From walking to the shops or part of your journey to work, to walking the dog and organised group walks, try to make every step count.

What a 60kg person burns in 30 minutes

  • Strolling (2mph): 75 calories
  • Walking (3mph): 99 calories
  • Fast walking (4mph): 150 calories

Source: Department of Health, 2004

Mix it up

Add variety to your walks. You don't have to travel to the countryside to find a rewarding walk. Towns and cities offer interesting walks including parks, heritage trails, canal towpaths, riverside paths, commons, woodlands, heaths and nature reserves. For ideas for inspiring walks, see the Explore website or try the iFootpath app.

For wheelchair users and parents with buggies, visit the Walks With Wheelchairs website.

Guided walks near you

Walking with other people is one of the best ways to stay motivated and meet new people.  You can search for walks in your area at http://www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/walkfinder or for more information see Surrey's Walking for health groups page.

  • Updated: 24 Jun 2017

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