Step out into the fresh air this Spring

Research by London School of Economics and Vitality health insurance has found that if people throughout the country set themselves a daily target of just 5,000 steps, it could save the NHS up to £15 billion each year.

Walking drastically reduces the rate of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes and achieving this low target number of daily steps could add two to three years onto the lives of currently inactive people.

The researchers studied four million adults in Britain and South Africa, monitoring their exercise habits over a ten-year period. It was concluded that ‘every minute of exercise contributes to better health’.

The lowered risk of hospital admission or mortality improved particularly in older people. It was discovered that, in those aged 65 and over, those who walked just 7,500 steps three days per week were 52 per cent less likely to pass away during the study period, compared to those who remained inactive.

Other key statistics included:

A shock to many is that 35 per cent of the UK population are estimated to be completely inactive and 17 per cent are “insufficiently active”, only exceeding 5,000 steps on one day each week.

The reality is that 5,000 steps equate to around 45 minutes of brisk walking, or perhaps closer to an hour for those who are a little older.

Interestingly, a 4-week Fitbit experiment which tracked the steps and cardio activity of both twenty new stay-at-home mums found that they took approximately 10,382 steps each day.

Getting your steps in can be a lot simpler than you might think. Yes, there are the obvious methods such as participating in an exercise class or walking the dog but the fact is that we often take a lot of steps without really noticing.

Household chores can involve anywhere between 50-100 steps per minute, depending on the activity and for those who commute to work, walking between public transport also contributes.

If it’s so simple, then, why are people not meeting these walking targets?

There is an array of contributing factors to the slow pace of many in the UK. Sitting at a desk for the majority of the day, an increase in working from home cutting out the daily commute and a lack of time or motivation.

People also tend to overcomplicate things when it comes to being active. Just like dieting, the easy trap to fall into is the ‘I’ll start on Monday’ tack, with grand plans to walk 5 miles per day and not even look at a piece of chocolate.

The truth is that less is more, and you are far more likely to increase your steps consistently over time by increasing a little each day, than by over-exerting your body and training your mind to hate exercise.

It can be as simple as dancing in the kitchen whilst you wash the dishes or, if you are lucky enough to own a dog, taking them out for a walk.

I’m not talking about a mundane stroll around the block, though. This is neither fun for yourself, nor your dog. As a former dog trainer, it always disheartens me a little to see a person staring deeply into their mobile phone screen as they walk down the street, with the little face at the other end of the lead staring up at them lovingly, desperate for their owner to engage with them.

When I walk my dogs, I don’t tend to go very far. Whilst this may seem a bit backwards, most days I walk my dogs over to the field and simply play with them. Really play – we take a tug toy and chase each other around the field, playing tuggy. Believe me, this gets your heart racing and will certainly up your step count. It’s also food for the soul, and all parties leave happy, exercised and with a slightly stronger bond than twenty minutes before.

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