Walk the Walk

By Maeve O'Keeffe Heart News   |   21st Jun 2023

Enjoy the bright summer evenings by going out for a walk on your nearest Slí na Sláinte route

Today (June 21st) marks the summer solstice, or the longest day of the year. What better way to take advantage of the long bright evening than by going out for a walk? Although the weather today is unpredictable, with some showers and thunder forecasted, hopefully there will be some breaks to explore the outdoors.

According to Martin Ryan, Health Promotion Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation, “Walking is a perfect form of exercise, particularly for those that are new to exercise and would like to gradually improve their fitness level.”

Some people might find the idea of joining a gym or fitness class daunting or expensive, but Martin emphasises that the beauty of walking as a form of exercise is that “it is free, can easily be incorporated into your day, can be done anywhere at any time and requires no special gear.”

" Walking is a perfect form of exercise, particularly for those that are new to exercise and would like to gradually improve their fitness level.”

Martin Ryan, Health Promotion Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation

Walking may be free and easy, but the benefits of walking for our physical, mental, and social health cannot be understated. Martin outlines how walking “helps reduce stress and boosts our mood and self-esteem, particularly when we walk in green or blue space.”

“When you walk at a moderate intensity, you are helping to train your heart and lungs to work more efficiently for you,” explains Martin. “This helps to reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol and stress, while also improving your cardiovascular fitness and helping to maintain a healthy weight. The overall positive effect of walking is that it reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.”

If you are interested in going for more walks, but are not sure of where to go, check out the Irish Heart Foundation’s Slí na Sláinte routes. The Slí na Sláinte routes are signposted walkways in communities across Ireland.  There are over 230 Slí na Sláinte routes across 25 counties. All of the routes are on a hard surface, of varying lengths and  difficulty and there is signage in place to guide you along the route.

The Sport Ireland website also has plenty of routes for hikes and walks, but it is important to consider the grading of each route, and to opt for the trail that best matches your fitness level.

“ When you walk at a moderate intensity, you are helping to train your heart and lungs to work more efficiently for you,”

Martin Ryan, Health Promotion Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation

“Walking with friends, family, or as part of a walking group allows you to get active while socialising and meeting new people,” says Martin. If you are interested in setting up a walking group in your local area, then you can complete the Irish Heart Foundation’s free online Walking Leader Training Course to become a community walking leader. Supported by the HSE, the free course is aimed at people who wish to lead a voluntary walking group and provides all the tips and skills you need to lead a safe and enjoyable walk.

Remember to be safe and be seen while out on your walks. The evenings may be brighter, but use a safe, well-lit route; ensure you have the right footwear that is comfortable and supportive; and wear sunscreen and hi-viz clothing.

Find your nearest Slí na Sláinte walking route

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