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Find your feet in 2015

PUBLISHED: 11:33 27 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:41 27 January 2015

Hemel Hempstead health walk

Hemel Hempstead health walk

Archant

When it comes to new year health kicks, forget the latest fitness plans and on-trend exercise gadgets, a brisk walk is hard to beat, says Isabel Crozier of the Countryside Management Service as the group launches Hertfordshire Year of Walking

Walkers say the social aspect is a top benefitWalkers say the social aspect is a top benefit

What has 5,000 legs and walks seven days a week, 365 days of the year? Answer: Hertfordshire Health Walks. Organised by the Countryside Management Service, part of Herts County Council, and in partnership with Public Health, the free walks are designed to improve the health and wellbeing of all who take part. The initiative has been running since 2001 and has gone from strength to strength, with now more than 50 outings every week in the county and exciting plans for 2015.

This month, CMS and Public Health are launching the Hertfordshire Year of Walking in a bid to get more people active. Whether you feel inspired to walk for leisure (a pub walk with your pals), for exercise (one of our a brisk walks to get the heart pumping) or for utility (swap the car for trainers and walk to work), every step counts.

January is a time when many of us are eager to burn off Christmas pudding calories and go in search of a healthier lifestyle. However, the rotten truth is our sedentary behaviour is not limited to the festive period. Two thirds of Britons are not active enough at any time. The target? UK Chief Medical Officers recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, which can be broken down into five chunks of 30 minutes or smaller blocks of 10 – whatever works best for you. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, walking is the most likely way all adults can achieve the recommended levels of physical activity. Walking bulldozes a number of the common barriers (or excuses!) people cite when it comes to exercise – time, cost and accessibility. Walking is free, requires no equipment or membership, is low impact and therefore accessible to the majority of people regardless of fitness level, and you can build up gradually.

Health and medical professionals refer to walking as a near perfect exercise – we were born to do it, after all. Plus, our health and wellbeing depends on being sufficiently active. Regular exercise cuts the risk of heart disease and stroke by 20-35 per cent, risk of Type 2 diabetes by 35-50 per cent and the development of Alzheimer’s disease by a whopping 60 per cent, according to the Department of Health.

Walking is one activity the majority of us can do. The Department of Transport estimates only four per cent of people need support to walk outside the home. And if variety is the spice of life, then walking is the activity that keeps on giving. In Hertfordshire we’re blessed with 3,200kms of Rights of Way network, 42 open spaces with Green Flag status, plus miles of accessible disused railway lines and towpaths just waiting to be explored on foot. As part of the Hertfordshire Year of Walking, CMS aims to open residents’ eyes to all the walking opportunities in the county and look for new ways to make walking a sustainable part of everyone’s lifestyle, whether walking for fun, fitness or function.

You can help spread the word about Hertfordshire Year of Walking by letting CMS know about your local walking group – email healthwalks.cms@hertfordshire.gov.uk. To discover Hertfordshire Health Walks and our Walks and More events (including a YouTube video link), visit hertfordshirehealthwalks.org and hertslink.org/cms

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Love walking and live in Welwyn or Hatfield? In partnership with Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, CMS is introducing a new Hertfordshire Health Walk near you in 2015. Keep up to date with developments at hertfordshirehealthwalks.org or via facebook.com/HertfordshireHealthWalks and Twitter @hertshealthwalk for free walks between 30 and 90 minutes in local green spaces. If you’re interested in leading a walk and have a couple of hours a week or month to give to the community, do get in touch.

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Top tips for getting started>>>

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Make walking a habit

Many Hertfordshire Health Walks take place on the same day and time each week – all year round. Find one that fits your routine to make exercise a more sustainable part of your lifestyle.

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Use visible cues

Keep your trainers by the front door to encourage you to lace them up when you need a pint of milk from the shop rather than grabbing your car keys. Keep your local Hertfordshire Health Walks walk programme pinned to the fridge to remind you when and where walks take place.

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Buddy up

Get family, friends and colleagues on board to walk regularly with you. Motivate each other to reach your goals (say 10,000 steps each day). Join a health walk – the social aspect of walking as a group is the benefit walkers say they enjoy most.

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Time it right

To achieve 150 minutes of physical activity per week, you don’t need to be a slave to exercise. Health walks are short – 30-90 minutes – so it’s possible to participate without your whole day being swallowed up.

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Pace perfection

Brisk walking has huge health benefits. Aim to feel a little warmer and get your heart beating a little faster. You should be able to hold a conversation but not sing a tune!

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