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Six week walking plan

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A six week walking guide by volunteer Dr Nick Summerton

On some days it can be hard to remain positive. Many of us are missing friends, family and being able to travel more than a few miles from our homes. As I write sleet and rain are beating down outside and the world seems dark and miserable.

This lockdown has been much tougher for all of us. A recent survey conducted by University College, London found that, compared to the first lockdown, we are doing less exercise and neglecting our hobbies. In contrast, we are now spending more time sitting on sofas consuming calories and watching TV.

But the end is in sight. Amazing progress is being made with the vaccination programme and schools are set to re-open in early March. So perhaps now is a good time to wake up and to get planning. On my part I want to ensure that I am fit enough to enjoy exploring the North York Moors National Park again as soon as we are given the green light.

Walking is a powerful tonic, and a regular daily dose makes us feel better. It improves the way our bodies work and protects us from heart problems, diabetes, dementia and cancer. The UK Chief Medical Officers` Physical Activity guidelines recommend that adults should rack up at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity (such as brisk walking or cycling) each week. But many us struggle to achieve this target, perhaps because we set goals that are vague or simply too ambitious.

Individuals with underlying health conditions will often feel much better and do much better if they do some exercise. However, if you have any long-term illnesses or take any medicines it is always important to speak to your GP first. You also need to tell your doctor if you ever feel any pain in your chest, are breathless or dizzy.

For those who have not walked much before - or have got particularly out of trim - it is best to gradually build up your activity over a few weeks. Although the main aim is to walk briskly (at least 3 miles per hour or 100 steps per minute) each session needs to include time to warm up and cool down too.

Also, as part of any walking plan it is essential to improve your strength and flexibility. Seven useful strength exercises to do every few days can be found on the NHS website. Daily exercises to improve flexibility of the neck, back and calves can be found on the NHS website.

So here is my six-week walking plan for you.

Days Warm up:
gentle walk
Brisk walk:
100 steps per
Cool down:
gentle walk and
flexibility exercises
walking time
(on rest days)
1-3 5 mins 5 mins 5 mins 15 mins  
4 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
5-7 5 mins 7 mins 5 mins 17 mins  
8 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
9-11 5 mins 9 mins 5 mins 19 mins  
12 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
13-15 5 mins 11 mins 5 mins 21 mins  
16 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
17-19 5 mins 13 mins 5 mins 23 mins  
20 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
21-23 5 mins 15 mins 5 mins 25 mins  
24 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
25-27 5 mins 18 mins 5 mins 28 mins  
28 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
29-31 5 mins 20 mins 5 mins 30 mins  
32 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
33-35 5 mins 22 mins 5 mins 32 mins  
36 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
37-39 5 mins 24 mins 5 mins 34 mins  
40 Rest Rest Rest Rest Yes
41-425 mins26 mins5 mins36 mins 

By mid-April, you should feel much better with a definite sense of achievement and improved confidence. But it is also important to keep going, aiming for 30 minutes of brisk walking on at least 5 days each week. Think about joining a walking group and try to include more activity in your day-to-day routines by using stairs and walking rather than driving or going on a bus. Also keep doing flexibility exercises after every walk as well as strength exercises every couple of days.

This six-week plan is for all of us – so now that the sun has appeared I also need to turn off my computer, put my boots back on and get outside for my daily dose of walking!