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Ade Williams: walk this way!

Ade Williams MBE, lead pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy and brilliant Bristol ambassador explains the importance of walking…

Walking is an exciting and memorable key developmental milestone for a child. Employing balance and muscle coordination – standing up, supporting body weight from one leg to the other and moving around, offers mobility and freedom. As we age, this is something that we only cherish more and more.

The average adult will walk almost 75,000 miles over their lifetime – the equivalent of three times travelling around the world. Yet, we know that non-age or disability-related reduced physical inactivity has crept into all our lives.

About 1 in 3 (34%) men and 1 in 2 (42%) women are not active enough. Compared to the 1960s, our population is around 20% less active. This is not good news. If current trends continue, we will be 35% less active by 2030.

This is a story of the modern life; the lure of convenience, the ever-constant pursuit of speed and a less physically demanding existence. The combination of personal choices and societal design, including longer desk-based work and screen activities, has us driving every time and everywhere, plus ubiquitous digitally-enabled cab-calling means “let’s get an uber” is a more widely used lexicon than “let’s walk over”.

I am certainly as guilty as anyone else. Worryingly, our reduced physical inactivity is associated with 1 in 6 deaths in the UK and is estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion annually (including £0.9 billion to the NHS alone).

Many people don’t realise that physical activity has significant benefits for health, both physical and mental, and can help prevent and manage other chronic conditions and diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Walking is free, accessible, and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. The NHS advice is to walk at least two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity activity a week. You can break this down into daily 10-minutes brisk sessions, which help you build stamina, burn excess calories, and make your heart healthier.

Moderate intensity means: your breathing is faster, your heart rate more rapid, and you feel warmer. A brisk walk is about 3mph; you can still talk but not sing the words to a song. If you have a medical condition limiting your physical activity, please seek advice on exercising with a disability. If you have not been very active but can walk, increase your walking distance gradually.

Before starting, make sure any shoes or trainers you wear are comfortable, provide adequate support and do not cause blisters. If you’re walking to work, you could wear your usual work clothes with a comfy pair of shoes and change shoes when you get to work. For long walks, you may want to take some water, healthy snacks, a spare top, sunscreen and a sun hat in a small backpack.

If you start going for longer walks regularly, you may want to invest in a waterproof jacket and some specialist walking shoes for more challenging routes. Some tips on making walking a habit and part of our daily routine include using the stairs instead of the lifts and walking to the shops when possible; walking part of your journey to work; leaving the car behind for short trips also reduces carbon emissions; walking the kids to school creates memories to cherish; do a regular or after-dinner walk with friends and family; walking while listening to music or a podcast can take your mind off the effort; and get a digital step counting device and set a daily target.

Bristol offers exciting walks, including parks, heritage trails, waterside paths, commons, woodlands, and nature reserves. Walking in a group is a great way to start walking, make new friends, stay motivated, and get to know the City and its history. Adding variety to your walks also makes it easier to stay motivated. Such is the richness of the Walks available in our beautiful city that every May, Bristol Walk Fest – a month-long celebration of all things walking takes place throughout—offering a wealth of in-person walking-related events and activities, self-guided walking routes and challenges. The future of our city will continue to involve conversations and choices. To help us better appreciate walk-friendly designs and other more ecological options, as we walk together, we connect with nature and, in typical Bristol-style, enjoy a festival too. Let’s get walking.

Follow Ade on Twitter: @adewilliamsnhs; and keep up to date with Bedminster Pharmacy: @bedminsterpharm

Featured image: Ade Williams’ portrait as taken by acclaimed photographer Rankin