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Walk this way…

How often do you go walking? 🚶‍♀️

This Festival of Winter walks (13th to 19th December) we’re celebrating the importance of this simple activity for your health – both mental and physical. Read on to find out more of what you should know about the joy of walking!

The Benefits of Walking 🚶‍♀️

Walking is an aerobic cardiovascular activity that has many benefits for your health 💪. Cardio means heart and vascular is our arteries and veins.  This exercise works our heart muscles, lungs and pumps blood around our body keeping us healthy.  It can also help with:

–        Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight ⚖️

–        Boosting the immune system

–        Increasing your stamina 🙌

–        Preventing or managing any chronic conditions

–        Strengthening your heart 💕

–        Extending the length of your life!

But it’s not just good for your physical health – it’s great for your mental health too 🧠. With 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, you can help reduce anxiety and depression while improving your mood and self-esteem. You don’t have to do 30 minutes all in one go either – you could pop in 10 minutes of walking three times a day and have the same benefits 💁‍♀️!

Walking versus Running 🏃‍♀️

Walking and running both tend to have a lot of the same benefits, but with a few key differences. Running can burn more calories 🔥 in the same time span, so you’d need to walk for longer for the same outcome.

But this isn’t necessarily the best way to go. This is because running can be really hard on your joint health. If you don’t have good technique, you can create undue impact on ankles, knees and hips.

Running is considered a high-impact activity, which can lead occasionally to stress fractures in the feet 🤕, shin splints and knee or hip injuries.

Walkers have a 1-5% chance of injury when walking, whereas runners have a 20-70% chance! It’s much riskier, especially if you’ve had historical injuries to work through.

If you’re keen to lose weight in particular, you can always try speed walking – or walking at a brisker pace – to make up for the calorie count 🧁. You can also try interval or pace training, where you increase your speed for two minutes before slowing back down again. Taking a gentle, sustained approach is much better for you in the long term than going harder with poor technique.

Walking is also so accessible for anyone, regardless of your fitness level, making it a great way to get started and maintain your health.

Great Walking Trails in Essex: Where to go? 🌿

Walking can be a great way to reconnect with nature and your local community 🌲, as well as getting you into shape! Discover more of your local area as you go or make it a day for the whole family. There happen to be plenty of great walks in the Chelmsford, Essex area – here are a few of our top picks to get you started!

Palace Walk

Named for the fact that it takes you past the Danbury Country Park which includes the Tudor Gothic Danbury Palace 🏰. You can start at several points on the trail, but if you start at Danbury Country Park, you can take the route past Old Hare Wood, Hammonds Roads and then onto Cuton Lock, Stonhams Lock, Little Baddow Lock and past Little Baddow Hall, New Lodge, Blakes Wood nature reserve, Lingwood Common, Colemans Lane, past Danbury Church, along Woodhill Road and back to Danbury Country Park. It’s a lovely mix of nature and beautiful structures, perfect for a good long walk. Learn more here.

Woodland Walk

Through the woodland pathways, you can have a more Blakes Wood-focused walk, where there’s plenty of parking so you can start your trail with ease. The wood is ancient and very beautiful, with rich wildlife and flowers in spring 🌲. From Blakes Wood, you can walk towards Chapel Lane and down to New Lodge and the nature reserve inside Blakes Wood. Go along Graces Walk and along the cancel pathways towards the Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve, and at the ford, go over the fields to Little Baddow Church, to the river past Little Baddow Lock, down to Holybred Wood and Holybred Lane before heading to The Rodney, Heather Hills and the General Arms before heading back to Blakes Wood. Learn more about the route here.

Bourne Mill

For a shorter walk, taking about an hour, start at Bourne Mill. This takes you along a circular route through some lovely country sites. There’s a mix of paths and pavement, so it’s also very pushchair friendly. You’ll see River Colne , Bourne Valley, Cannock Mill, Distillery Pond and the Almhouses of Winsley Square. Read more about the route here.

Northey Island Circular Walk

Starting and finishing in Maldon, this walk is for the more adventurous, and definitely requires some wellies. At an hour and 50 minutes, the terrain is easy but it’s a longer walk for sure. This one will take you to Northey Island, the Black-water Estuary that is cut off at high tide. It’s a great way to really get back into nature, and experience properly wild surroundings. Learn more here.

For more great ideas, check out more walks in Essex here.

With regular walking, you can get on track to better all-round health, without pushing your body further than it can go. Remember to always let someone know where you’re going, bring plenty of water and snacks if you need them for longer treks. Otherwise, even starting small in your local area will help to build the stamina you need for a long and healthy life.  Just open your door and start walking!

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