Column: Walking yourself to fitness and health

Dr David Crichton with fellow walkers
Dr David Crichton with fellow walkers
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This month I’ve joined nearly 30 colleagues at the clinical commissioning group in stepping out to support the Walk All Over Cancer campaign to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

The challenge is to walk an average of 10,000 steps every day in June, and the results from our first week were pretty impressive. Collectively we completed 1,672, 877 steps – an average of 83,644 each – which was 13,000 above each individual’s target.

This weekly total is roughly the equivalent of walking from John o’ Groats to Land’s End. If we manage to keep it up for the rest of the month we’re jointly going to cover a distance equivalent to walking from Vienna to Moscow.

We’ve uncovered some ‘super’ walkers in our midst, with three colleagues clocking up over 340,000 steps between them in seven days. I managed 88,000 but, by the time you read this, I’ll hopefully be on the way to a bigger total as I’m spending the week in Bavaria, where away from my desk I hope to do some walking.

As a practising GP, I know that walking, whether it’s for work or leisure, is an easy way of being more active without trying too hard. And as someone who spends a lot of time sat down during my working days, I know it’s not easy to achieve a healthy 10,000 steps a day without a bit of planning and effort.

10,000 steps is equivalent to about five miles. During an average day in the office I’ll walk around 2,500 steps, so I’ve had to make a conscious effort to find other ways of racking up the other 7,500. This includes parking my car further away from the office than I usually do and going for a walk at lunchtime.

Similarly, when I get home I’ve been walking to my nearby supermarket for various items rather than jumping in the car and driving there.

It’s amazing what a difference walking can make to help you build stamina, burn excess calories, give you a healthier heart and even protect you from cancer.

It can be done almost anywhere, at any time, and in any weather. It’s a great way to get from A to B, so you can fit walking into your daily routine.

A person aged 45 and weighing about 11 stone can burn around 400 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly, which is about three to five miles an hour. If you’re trying to lose weight you should aim to reduce your daily calorie intake by 600 calories. This is best achieved by a combination of diet and being active.

If you think 10,000 steps is a lot, don’t be put off, it’s easier than you think with a bit of thought. Try taking the stairs instead of a lift; walk the children to school, whatever the weather; and find a walking partner to chat to on the way.