Walking has always been the unglamorous relation of running. But not any more. A new study has found that a brisk 25-minute walk every day can add up to seven years to your life. If, like me, you work long hours, building “active travel” into your day is a lot easier, and more enjoyable, than going to the dreaded gym.
And it doesn’t have to be an uphill slog. The good news is that shopping for two hours along Oxford Street or walking around a museum both count. Here’s how to do it, without breaking a sweat.
The bossy Moves app has changed my life. Just carry your phone in your bag and it will count your steps throughout the day. The goal is 10,000 steps (five miles). You’ll be amazed how it tots up running for trains or going upstairs to the canteen. To find out how many calories you burn, download Citymapper (a beautifully designed journey-planner app).
The walking guru
I owe everything to movement specialist Joanna Hall who pioneers a walk-yourself-fit technique. Applying the latest scientific research, she has developed an enhanced walking technique that can tone, streamline, improve posture and even shape change. Basically you walk as if you have a glass of champagne balanced on each hip. She helps to establish your optimum stride (the pace that has been clinically shown to improve your health and fitness) then, when she has worked with you on your correct postural alignment, she gradually speeds up your stride. You can sign up for her fast-track residential programmes (walkactive.com) or buy her audio coaching downloads on iTunes. Expect to meet a lot of women in loose black clothing.
Go for a design with a wide foot and flexible sole. The FitFlop FF2 Banda (£65 in the sale, fitflop.co.uk) is perfect for urban hill walking as they have an ankle strap; the red version will take you on to the smartest party. Kurt Geiger does great bronze Jasper flat low top trainers (£49 in the sale, kurtgeiger.com). Barefoot shoes by Merrell and Vivo are light enough to sling in a bag.
Plan activities along the route. I’ve done a 20-mile coastal cultural trail taking in Jerwood Gallery in Hastings and the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. Signing up for Maggie’s 15-mile Culture Crawl (held throughout this month) is a brilliant way to access hidden architectural gems and raise money for charity; maggiescentres.org. And I’m jealous of friends who spent a week walking Hadrian’s Wall.
Eighties disco music is best for morale. And for audio books, go for a compelling genre novel like The Girl on the Train to help keep up your momentum.