Active Ambassador Pat Kennedy on why Health Walks are more vital than ever
Posted: Fri, 26 Nov 2021 11:40
Why Health Walks are more vitally important than ever: Pat Kennedy, Health Walk Leader and Active Ambassador
Active Ambassador Pat Kennedy has been running Health Walks for over 10 years. In this new blog, Pat reflects on the critical importance of walking for both our physical and mental health.
Every Wednesday I lead a group of six walkers, or so, in South Oxford. We have a regular pattern of walks which include parks and riverside walks along the Thames and local lakes. The walks are usually about two miles in length; we always finish with refreshments and a chat.
I trained as a Health Walk Leader in 2010. The emphasis of the training at that time was that a walk would be particularly beneficial if the walkers raised their heart rate and became a little breathless during the walk. That stressed the physical impact of walking to improve our health - at the time, there was little discussion about the psychological aspect of this group activity.
Interestingly, research since then has placed a different emphasis on the value of walking. Research papers suggest that being in the open air, especially with views of trees and green spaces has the effect of lowering blood pressure. The sight of running water also has a beneficial calming effect. Research also suggests that being mindful and aware of nature during a walk is good, as worrying thoughts are then suppressed which increases the health benefits of walking.
South Oxford Health Walks
The walks in South Oxford encompass many of these features so that we are able to enjoy a variety of trees and wildlife. During our walks, we have seen a fox, muntjac deer, cormorants, a jay, a kingfisher, herons and, last week, a gaggle of geese.
The pandemic and resultant social isolation has made us all more aware of the importance of regular social contact. Walkers look forward to the regular walks and chats during them. We also join together after the walk for refreshments for half an hour. Conversations are wide- ranging and we have enjoyed anecdotes about holidays, childhood and exchanged views about exhibitions and places of interest.
Health Walks take place across the city and some walkers from the Hinksey Park group regularly join the other walks. For example, the Bury Knowle walk which take place on Fridays and the city centre walk which meets outside John Lewis on Tuesdays.
New walkers are always welcome - you can find out more details about the walks here: Oxford City Health Walks
Health Walk Leader, Hinksey Park