Guest Author - Elizabeth Brennan
Health walks are simply walks that are undertaken in the local community on a regular basis at a brisk pace for health reasons, in other words for better cardiovascular functioning . All age groups should be able to participate. These walks aim to improve the health of regular walkers and encourage people to become more active in their local communities. They are usually led by trained walk leaders. At least one walk leader will stay at the back of the group to walk with the slower walkers and be available to offer help if necessary.
Walking is a cheap and easy way to become active, improve your heart health, reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and manage your weight. No special equipment is necessary, just a good pair of flat shoes or trainers and loose, weather suitable clothing.
Health walks are not just a stroll. To get optimum heart /lung and fat burning benefits from the exercise it is necessary to walk at a brisk pace. However on a health walk you start at the pace you can comfortably sustain and over a period of time aim to improve your pace. Health walks are not competitive so, if you need to rest at any stage that is acceptable.
Adults are advised by medical experts to exercise for 30 minutes at least five times per week and children and teenagers should be active for 60 minutes per day. Although 30 minutes of brisk walking a day is recommended, you donít have to do it all in one go to start with. The important thing is that you make a start at a level youíre comfortable with and build up. Participating in your local health walk is an excellent way to make a start.
Many people who have health issues such as heart problems, obesity, cancer or diabetes are advised by their doctors to walk regularly. Physical activity can slow down the progression of some diseases. It is difficult to have sufficient motivation to walk alone. This is where local health walks are important. They provide motivation, enjoyable company and encouragement. Health walks are an excellent way to meet new people and make new friends. This social aspect to group walking has very positive health benefits,
Health walks will be over easy terrain for a short distance and take place at a regular time at least once a week so participants can form a regular habit of walking. The route will have been risk assessed beforehand, toilet stops negotiated and a friendly restaurant or pub found for a refreshing drink and a chat at the end of the walk.
Many local communities have well established regular walks. If there is not already a walk in your area why not start one? If you enjoy walking, have a friendly personality, good organisation skills, are a good communicator and are reliable, committed and punctual you will make an excellent walk leader. Some organisations offer free training for volunteer walk leaders.
Your health care professional, local bulletin boards and local newspapers will help you to discover if there is a health walk in your area.