Walking is a near-perfect exercise that can be enjoyed by almost everybody and can be performed almost anywhere. Other than supportive footwear, you do not need any special equipment and, best of all, it is free!
Regular brisk walking provides many health benefits including:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of stroke
- Reduced risk of diabetes
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Reduces high cholesterol and improves blood lipid profile
- Boosts mental well-being, improves self-esteem and makes us feel good
Walking also plays an important role in helping to fight obesity and in weight management.
The Ramblers Association (www.ramblers.org.uk) is Britain’s leading walking organization and provides details of walks throughout the country. Why not join a walking group – a great way to meet new friends as well as have fun and get fit!
Walking for health www.wfh.naturalengland.org.uk encourages more people to become physically active in their local communities.
www.walkingbritain.co.uk provides more than 11,500 pages of walking and routes around Britain.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk has a comprehensive list of downloadable walks.
If a member of your family has mobility problems and uses a wheelchair, this needn’t be a barrier. www.walkswithwheelchairs.com provides details on walks around the country that are suitable for wheelchair users.
Across the world millions of people have taken up Nordic walking to improve their walking workouts and their natural walking experience.
Nordic walking uses two specially designed poles to work the upper body while walking. Like cross country skiing, the poles are used by the arms to match each step that a person takes when they walk.
What are the benefits of Nordic walking?
Nordic walking provides many benefits if done correctly. These include:
- Promoting a longer arm swing and stride, which activates more muscles, especially in the upper arms
- Improving posture, encouraging you to walk upright and not bent over
- Adding stability and balance to your stride
- Involving up to 90% of your body muscles compared to just 70% with regular walking
- Burning up to 46% more calories than regular walking
- Reducing impact on joints
How do I find out more?
Nordic walking classes are run throughout the UK. For further details please see www.nordicwalking.co.uk
Swimming is England’s most popular participation sport, with more than 3.26 million people regularly getting in a pool (Sport England Active Participation Survey, 2010). Not only is it a fantastic form of exercise, but it is suitable for people of all ages and abilities. It is a lifelong skill – if you can’t swim, it is never too late to learn!
Regular swimming decreases the risk of chronic illness, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It also boosts your mood and helps to control weight. Swimming also works practically every muscle in the body and provides the best all-round, low-impact physical activity that we can participate in. When performed regularly, it is a great way to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, muscular endurance and enhance physique.
As body weight is supported by water, there is also less pressure on the joints, making it ideal for those with chronic back pain, joint problems, or those whose excess weight makes mobility difficult on land.
How to start
Beginners: Most pools cater for all abilities and will run learn-to-swim lessons for adults. These may be 1:1 lessons or in small groups. Ask at your local pool for more information.
Intermediate or Advanced Level: Most pools run “swim fit” schemes with many running coached sessions. These are a great way to train with other people, which will not only provide motivation, but will also be a great way to meet new friends.
How do I find out more?
If you do not fancy swimming, why not try Aquafit. Working at a level to suit you, Aquafit resembles aerobics in water and is a great way to get fit. You don’t need to be able to swim, and with reduced pressure on your joints, it promotes fitness for life, maintaining stamina, strength and suppleness. Ask at your local pool for details of any classes being run near you.
No longer confined to the school playground, skipping is a fun way to get fit with many gyms now incorporating skipping into fitness classes. The great thing about skipping is that other than a rope and supportive footwear, you do not need any special equipment. It is inexpensive, convenient and can be done just about anywhere at any time. Skipping is an excellent cardiovascular workout, which targets thighs, calves, bottom and shoulders, helping to keep these areas toned. It also provides less impact to your joints than running and will burn more than 600 calories an hour.
How to start
Start slowly! Warm up for 3-5 minutes, with gentle stretching.
Start with 20-30 seconds of skipping mixed with 30 seconds of marching on the spot. As you get fitter, increase your skipping time.
Start with double-footed jumps, but as you feel more comfortable, add in some variety such as alternating feet.
For technique tips visit www.jumpropeinstitute.com or the British Skipping Rope Association at www.brsa.org.uk
Zumba literally means “moving quickly and having fun”.
Zumba fitness, or the Zumba programme, is a dance fitness programme that was created by Columbian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez during the 1990s. It is a dance-style aerobics workout to swinging Latin American music.
All the different Latin American and international dance styles – salsa, samba, merengue, hip-hop, belly dancing and reggae – encourage you to move your body and have fun; for added measure, squats and lunges are also included.
After just a couple of zumba classes, you'll be hooked! The party atmosphere, dance moves and music make you use your whole body without even feeling like you are working out. Zumba can burn between 500-1000kcal an hour and helps to build stamina, lose weight and increase muscle tone.
Anyone can join in, from teens to seniors of both sexes. You don't need to be able to dance and you don't need a partner. There are eight different types of classes for different levels of age and exertion. These include zumba told - this mainly targets the older population and is specifically designed to the needs of the elderly. Zumba toning is for the people who do their workouts with toning sticks. Zumba toning will target the abs, thighs, arms and other muscles throughout the body. Aqua zumba is zumba in a swimming pool.
For further information and to find a class near you visit www.zumba.com
Kettlercise is a fitness class that incorporates the use of kettlebell training in a friendly group atmosphere.
Kettlebells look very similar to a cannonball with a handle and come in a variety of different weights. They have been used for centuries by strongmen, with the word “Girya”, meaning kettlebell, first appearing in a Russian dictionary in 1704. Since the 1990s they have become more fashionable and are now used in many gyms and by several celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Lance Armstrong and Geri Halliwell to boost overall fitness and strength.
Kettlebells can work more muscle groups than almost any other form of exercise, providing an all-over body workout. By using a variety of different techniques to lift and swing the kettlebells, not only will you improve your posture, as your body has to work hard to stabilise it, but you will also target your legs, lower back, shoulders and arms, as well as improving endurance. Kettlebell workouts can also improve your cardiovascular fitness. According to the American Council on Exercise, a 20-minute workout using kettlebells, on average, will burn 272 calories. The only other exercise to come close to this was cross country skiing uphill!
To find a class near you visit www.kettlercise.com
Following Gwyneth Paltrow’s “step tap” shuffling appearance in Glee, the popular US television series, and the tap dancing penguins in the film Happy Feet, tap dancing is making a comeback and is proving to be popular with people of all ages and abilities.
Tap dancing, the oldest form of dance, which started in America, is a fun style of dance that anyone can learn regardless of previous dance experience. Using special shoes equipped with metal plates, tap dancing is as much about creating sound as physical performance, however when performed regularly it provides great health benefits.
Tap dancing is great for strengthening feet, ankles and thighs, as well as improving balance and providing a good cardiovascular workout, and utilising over 350 calories an hour. It also helps to develop a great sense of rhythm and timing as well as co-ordination and, most importantly, is great fun!
Like any form of dance, you will need some basic instruction. For details of a tap school near you visit www.dancenearyou.co.uk or www.danceweb.co.uk or
Originally called Ultimate Frisbee, Ultimate as it is now known (as Frisbee™ is the trademarked brand for discs made by toy company Wham-O) is an exciting, non-contact team sport played by thousands all over the world. It is proving to be increasingly popular in the UK.
Ultimate is a combination of soccer, basketball, American football and netball, and is played with a flying disc. When you put all these elements together, it provides a simple yet fascinating game.
The field of play consists of an area (64m long), with an end zone at each end (23m) long. The field is 37m wide. The aim of the game is to score points by passing the flying disc into the opposing team’s end zone, similar to American football.
Ultimate is a fast and exciting game, however it is simple to play and is suitable for all ages and abilities. Participating in Ultimate on a regular basis will improve power, agility, balance, co-ordination, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness as well as endurance and strength. As it is a team sport, it is also a great way to have fun and to meet new people.
For details of clubs near you and to find out more about Ultimate go to