As festive plans are cancelled and changed, walking charity Paths for All has suggested families do something a little different this Christmas and New Years for a winter health boost by taking up local festive walks with loved ones, while following all government guidelines.
While winter can be a tough time for older people in particular, regular walks can help keep Scots safe while allowing us to meet up and spend time with family and friends helping to reduce stress, isolation and anxiety.
Research shows half a million older people regularly suffer periods of isolation during winter, with some people not seeing or speaking with others for up to five or six days per week, and even longer over the festive period.
A local daily walk over Christmas allows for all important interaction with loved ones, neighbours, and others in the community, creating a sense of connection and community belonging even while social distancing.
Dr Gregor Smith, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, said: “Regular walking is a powerful tonic. It helps to boost our immune system and those of us able to should strive to get the benefit this winter.
“A 30-minute daily walk is one of the best ways to look after yourself and it’s something we can do from our own front door.
“During periods of physical distancing, isolation and uncertainty, many have expressed increased feelings of anxiety, stress or worry. Daily outdoor exercise, while adhering to guidelines, is an important way to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
“We would encourage those who are able to get outdoors this winter to do so, even if it is for a short walk to the shop or to school.”
The plea comes as the charity launched its Walk Once a Day this Winter campaign and online content hub which highlights the importance of a daily walks to maintain physical and mental well-being.
The hub provides a variety of ideas, Christmas activities and information designed to motivate individuals of all ages to get outdoors and get moving including Santa spotting, podcast recommendations, location advice, community and festive walks and creative walking.
The winter initiative will also offer incentives to those who pledge to walk once a day through December and January.
Dr William Bird MBE, founder of Intelligent Health and the Beat the Street game said: “Walk Once a Day this winter is such a simple but effective message.
“When I talk to patients on a day-to-day basis, most of them ask for advice on how to avoid getting COVID-19 or how they can improve their chances of fighting it if they do catch it.
“Walking is always one of the best things that people can do for their health, however during these times of COVID-19, it’s more vital than ever. When you go for a brisk walk, this stimulates the creation of ‘natural killer cells’ which are part of the immune system. They sit at the nasal cavity and are ready to mop up any virus including COVID-19 and kill it before it has a chance to replicate and get into the cells.
“Not only that, but walking in green space and nature has a positive impact on the brain also reduces stress and its negative impact on the immune system.
UK-wide research by King’s College London during lockdown revealed 49% of people in the UK have felt more anxious or depressed than normal, with walking shown to be an effective method to prevent and manage mental health conditions.
Paths for All believes regular walking is key to leading a happy and healthy life – and it is important for people to continue enjoying short, local walks where it is safe and appropriate to do so, owing to the huge array of associated benefits.
Ian Findlay CBE, Chief Officer at Paths for All said: “A walking Christmas is the safest way to meet with friends and family this festive period, and additionally experience positive physical, social and mental health benefits.
“Over the last few months, walking has become more popular and surveys have shown that Scots have increased their walking during this unprecedented time more than any other part of the UK.
“We would encourage individuals to keep this up, even if it is for just a short walk round the block, it’s a time for us to wander outside, get some fresh air and leave our worries behind.
“We believe by encouraging people to walk everyday they will experience many positive physical, social and mental health benefits and in turn we will move forward in the New Year as a healthier, greener, safer and happier nation”.
Follow the campaign over on Paths for All social media channels #WalkOnceADay.
Paths for All launched a mood-boosting podcast designed using mindfulness techniques to help people look after their mental well-being whilst getting their daily exercise during Covid-19. Mind to Walk is freely available online on all popular podcast players or on Paths for All website at www.pathsforall.org.uk/mindtowalk
Paths for All’s focus is clear: it wants to get Scotland walking: everyone, every day, everywhere.
For more information on Paths for All and the Walk Once a Day this Winter campaign, visit: http://www.pathsforall.org.uk/walkonceaday