“Walk for life”

This is the conclusion of a review done by Bangor University of recent research into where best to exercise.  The study points out that exercising outdoors is better at helping your mind to relax.  It helps cut anger, fatigue and sadness.  After a walk in the open air, people felt more energetic and found it easier to concentrate.

It would be good to see some research on how frequently older people do go outside after they retire.  There are lots of intrepid travelers abroad and closer to home ramblers in the countryside or window shoppers in the town.  Nonetheless I would guess that people are less active as they get older.  The image of more leisure time is curtailed by limited financial resources and replaced by the easy option of daytime TV.  Add to this the limitations of impaired mobility and worries about street crime and gradually we are creating a generation of “her indoors” as Arthur Daley would say.

For the older elderly this is especially true, particularly for those in residential homes who very rarely get outside simply because of the shortage of staff to assist them.

This study reaches a simple conclusion but one with important consequences for how people should be looked after in later life.  The opportunity to get out and enjoy some fresh air and gentle exercise should be an essential ingredient of housing and support for the elderly.  This relatively inexpensive activity can be the start of a virtuous circle that improves well-being and reduces social isolation.  In turn there is ample evidence to suggest that this lifts people out of the downward spiral of loneliness, depression and deteriorating health.

It’s not a cure-all but it is a positive lifestyle change that could be encouraged and supported.

Maybe we should start a “Walk for Life” campaign ?

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4 Responses to “Walk for life”

  1. Jon Cleaver says:

    hi John
    Curiously I am at present writing an article about the very topic of walking through our glorious countryside, of the wellbeing it creates, and the tranquillity it brings. A recent news item in the Daily Telegraph suggests the Forestry Commission via government financial cutbacks, will sell off forests and woodland, claimed by the DT “to be replaced by Centre Parc-style holiday villages, commercial logging operations, adventure sites and many other activities.” I was concerned about this and contacted Woodland Manager and Trustee of Friends of Brandon Wood, an ancient woodland that surrounds Binley Woods, where over 46 years, its beauty I have enjoyed. Being able to walk in this woodland heaven is in my view an inspiring and spiritually uplifting activity. To walk between an enfilade of trees, in all weathers, is not only a good way of inhaling the purist oxygen available naturally; the aura at its heart is the nearest thing to obtaining a high, without the downside of drug induced metaphors. I know that my recent fight on the health front was bolstered by the interaction with the natural feel-good factor emanating from the wood. There should be a campaign to promote the real benefits of outdoor gentle exercise whether it is through woodland, fields, or road walking. Regarding Brandon Wood, we the subscribers own the wood. It cannot be sold, I am informed. With the threat to sell off woodland and forest a distinct possibility; maybe it is time to form more community groups such as Friends of Brandon Wood, with the help of donations to purchase threatened woodland in order to preserve for it our wellbeing and that of our children. Incidentally, Friends of Brandon Wood has recently obtained a council grant to lay a wheelchair friendly path which in turn should help those lesser able bodied and older people to enjoy the “relatively inexpensive activity.”

  2. David Evans,Cardiff says:

    More research reported in The Guardian today supports the view that only 30 minutes walking could significantly reduce your risk of falling ill. And guess what?
    IT’S FREE.
    The risks of heart disease, strokes, dementia, osteoporosis, diabetes, depression, obesity,and high blood pressure all could be avoided by a simple walk.
    NO MORE DOCTORS NO MORE PILLS .
    PERHAPS WE SHOULD BE GIVEN A DOG ON PERSCRIPTION WHEN WE RETIRE.

  3. Weston says:

    Absolutely agree – just because you are older and need care it doesn’t mean you have to live like a battery hen cooped up indoors. My mum has dementia and if it wasn’t for my dad taking her for a walk every day she would rarely go outside. There are 30 other residents in her care home with dementia and the vast majority of them only go beyond the front door for a very special occasion.
    When my mum goes for a walk she starts to sing and it clearly makes her feel good. Why is it if you cared for a child or even a dog and didn’t provide opportunities for fresh air and exercise it would clearly be cruel and yet its the norm for older people.
    Forget about coffee mornings and the London Marathon – Age UK ought to run a sponsored “I’m an old lady – get me out of here” campaign, where people stay at home on their own, with nothing to do for a week. I don’t think it would be a great money-spinner but it would give a glimpse of what life is like for a lot of older people.

  4. john graham says:

    I think this is a great idea ! Maybe it could be linked in some way to “The Big Society” — some kind of community service that everyone has to complete sometime before they retire themselves.
    Say one hour of voluntary work every week from the age of eleven, when children start secondary school, right through adulthood, until retirement at say 70. That’s 2600 hours per person —- about 2oo volunteering days in a lifetime which is a lot less than national service used to be ! —–times say 30,000,000 people in the senior schools and work-age population.

    Now that’s a ” BIG SOCIETY “

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