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Walking for health: National Walking Month

May is National Walking Month – get some fresh air and also enjoy many health benefits for the body and the brain

Find out, with AXA PPP healthcare, how walking can particularly help the over fifties to improve bone health and brain skills.

You don’t need to try a new exercise trend to get moving – walking is one of the most accessible forms of exercise. National Walking Month in May is a celebration about all that is good about this underrated activity. There are many benefits associated with it beyond the most obvious and accepted ones; find out why you should be reaching for your walking boots now, with the help of the experts from AXA PPP healthcare.

The benefits of walking

Health practitioners recommend 30 minutes of physical activity a day to promote good health. Walking can be part, of or all, of this, and you’ll be burning calories, working your heart, building strength in core muscles and more. But do try to make some, or all, of your walk brisk – where your heart rate is faster but you can still have a chat with a companion – to get the most out of it. Dig a little deeper into this oh-so-simple practice though and you will find how walking can also improve your mental health, cognitive function and bone health – all good news as you age and want to live on and prosper in a willing and able body!

Walk for health: walking with friends

Take a walk for better bones

Stepping into your sixth decade can be daunting for some, a challenge perhaps, as joints start creaking and the memory hiccups escalate. The good news is, there’s lots you can do to ensure you are fighting fit for a new and more mature phase of your life – both physically and mentally. A positive place to start is ensuring you have good bone health, which means doing your best to maintain bone density. This will help you to stave off potential issues with osteoporosis – weak and porous bones that can break easily – for as long as possible.

Jan Vickery from AXA PPP healthcare says: “Low bone density can lead to a higher risk of osteoporosis. The condition isn’t painful, but the resulting fragility fractures can cause immediate and long-term (chronic) pain, arthritis and restricted mobility.”

A careful diet and supplement regime is helpful for bone health, but fitness and activity can also play a big part, and incorporating muscle-strengthening and weight-bearing exercises into your daily life is vital.

Georgina Camfield, a nutritionist for AXA PPP healthcare, explains why: “Bone is a living tissue that reacts to increases in loads and forces by growing stronger.”

Brisk walking, jogging and hiking are great weight-bearing exercises, where you’re supporting the weight of your own body. According to studies, as little as 20 minutes of such exercise a day can decrease the risk of suffering a fracture when older.

Walking for health: walk with friends in the countryside

How walking boosts brain health

Looking after your mental health is important throughout your life, but when you hit your fifties it’s an especially important time to take stock and do what you can to minimise unnecessary brain strain that could contribute to future issues with dementia. Use National Walking Month to kickstart a new habit that can boost your brain power and potentially prevent dementia dieseases.

As we age, the brain shrinks, which can lead to a progressively poorer memory and the onset of dementia.  Exercising with regular walks can be of benefit in several ways. Firstly, as exercise increases blood flow, so this means walking will increase the blood flow to the brain, which will improve brain function. Heart health will also be improved and heart disease is known to contribute to the risk of dementia, while a heart attack or stroke can also lead to impaired cognitive skills. As little as 10 minutes of brisk walking can not only not only improve brain function, it can also reverse cognitive impairment.

Walk tall

Dr Mark Winwood, a psychological expert at AXA PPP healthcare, says: “When you’re active, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin – the ‘feel-good’ chemicals that are known to improve your mood.” So get out there now, wrap some headphones around your head, so you can be inspired by your favourite music, and stride towards a happier, healthier future that will include a strong body and mind.

Walking for health: forest walk

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