1 in 4 brits walks for an hour or less a week

1 in 4 brits walks for an hour or less a week

One in four adults in Britain walks for no more than an hour a week, according to an online survey commissioned from YouGov by the walking charity Ramblers.

This figure includes everyday walking to the shops, work or school, says the charity, whose mission, among other things, is to encourage participation in walking for recreation and as a means of transport.

Britain In "Inactivity Pandemic"

In a press statement released on Monday, Benedict Southworth, Chief Executive of Ramblers, says:

"Walking is one of the most accessible and achievable ways to truly conquer this inactivity pandemic in Britain, and we need to get started now."

The UK government recommends that to stay healthy, adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and should do at least 150 minutes (that is 2 hours 30 minutes) of moderate physical activity a week, such as cycling or fast walking, in addition to muscle-strengthening exercises that work all the major muscle groups.

However, the survey, which polled more than 2,000 people across Britain, shows that 43% of adult Brits walked for only two hours or less per week.

The West Midlands came out as the least active region: over a third of adults (34%) polled from that part of the UK said they walked for no more than an hour a week.

In contrast, the East Midlands came out as the most active region: with 59% of people living there meeting and even exceeding the government recommendation.

Many Overestimate How Much Exercise They Should Do

Nearly everyone who took part in the survey (93%) agreed that walking is a good form of exercise for health. If they all acted on this view, it could transform the nation's sedentary habits, say the Ramblers in their press statement.

Yet while it seems to be almost a case of pushing on an open door, clearly something more needs to happen to encourage people to convert their beliefs into action.

Perhaps one of the problems is the perception that it is harder than it needs to be. Could it be a case of, it seems so difficult, so I won't even try? Over half of those polled thought the recommended amount of walking required for good health was more than 150 minutes a week, and nearly a quarter (24%) were of the view that to do any good, they would need to do more than 5 hours of walking a week.

Tips for More Walking

Just half an hour a day of brisk walking on five days a week would be enough to meet the recommended government health guidelines.

A study published in April 2013, found that brisk walking can reduce a person's risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol just as much as running can.

Here are some tips for how you can add small chunks of walking to your daily activity. Before you know it, you could put together half an hour.

  • 10 - 15 minutes. Get off the bus, train or metro one stop earlier. Many stops are very close together, yet automatically we assume we have to go directly to the one at our destination. Why not get off one stop earlier and add another 10 or 15 minutes of brisk walking to your daily total?
  • 2 - 5 minutes. Park the car at the mall or supermarket as far from the entrance as possible. Then walk briskly to the doorway. You can soon feel your heartbeat increase.
  • Get up ten minutes earlier, slip on jogger pants and trainers, and just go out of that front door for a ten-minute brisk walk. Even if it is around the block, or down the road and back, just do it! You don't have to do it every day. Alternatively, do it when you come home from work before you get stuck into the chores (getting dinner ready, putting on the washing, helping kids with homework...).
  • 2 - 5 minutes. Use the stairs instead of the lift. Obviously not if you are weighed down with shopping and in danger of tripping. But if you work in an office block and have a habit of using the lift, try the stairs now and again for a change.
  • 5 minutes stepping. It isn't really walking, but has the same aerobic effect. This is a good one for when you you just need another 5 minutes to reach your daily target. Use the bottom step of a flight of steps as a stepper: just step up and down briskly (don't forget to alternate legs) for 5 minutes. If you feel fit, go up two or three steps.
  • 15 minutes. Take the dog out - they know it's good for them. If you don't have a dog, offer to walk a neighbour's dog.
And there are ways to build up more walking into your month with larger amounts too. Why not make a day of it? Many cities and towns have organized walks you can join, and bring the kids too. Themes range from nature to local history.

Alternatively, arrange with a friend to go out for a longer walk once a month. Lots of local organizations have leaflets with maps of walks on them, or you could invest in a map and give yourself a goal of getting to know your local footpaths.

Another approach is to decide to use the car less. For instance, you could set aside one day a month where you don't use the car at all. Make it a family challenge to think of things to do, how to get from A to B, on foot.

And if you need a system to help you keep track of how much exercise you are doing, then perhaps consider a self-tracking tool. Ranging from wearable sensors and mobile apps to computer software, self- tracking tools process and display a wealth of personal data to help you monitor and manage all aspects of your health, not just your walking activity.

Get Walking Week

From 4 to 11 May the Ramblers charity is hosting Get Walking Week, Britain's biggest ever short walks festival, in a bid to get more people to discover the wonders of walking.

Experienced walk leaders throughout Britain will be leading hundreds of free short walks of five miles or less. The walks are short and easy and designed to help people get started and keep walking.

The campaign is organized by local Ramblers groups and Walking for Health schemes; England's network of health walks run by the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Being active through walking can also help cancer patients manage some of the debilitating consequences of treatment.

For example, in a study published in 2011, researchers found regular brisk walking can improve outcomes for prostate cancer patients.

Southworth says:

"We want people all over Britain to join the walking revolution and take their first steps towards a healthier and happier lifestyle."

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