There were two interesting TV programmes last week about walking and fitness. The first was co-presented by Julia Bradbury, the second was by Michael Mosley about health and fitness.
Britain’s top 100 walks was based on the results of the largest survey ever conducted into the UK’s hiking habits involving over 8,000 enthusiasts. The list included a Leigh Woods/Clifton Suspension bridge circular (which our Saturday 2 hour walkers will easily recognise) and the Broadway section of the Cotswold Way which we've done as a club several times over the past few years. Interestingly five of the top ten places went to the Lake District with mighty Helvellyn taking the number one spot.
The real excitement of the programme for me was the sheer number of amazing walks - short and long, easy and hard - that are on our doorstep. With the fitness that we are building together as a club there's a potentially limitless number of Nordic walking opportunities available to us in the beautiful British outdoors. For many of us this adventure is starting in March with our South Wales Three Peaks challenge but there's so much more out there and we have exciting plans to explore more of this stunning country of ours. In the meantime if you want to see the top 100 walks list or are looking for your own ideas and inspiration visit the Ordnance Survey website.
I had a mixed opinion about Michael Mosley’s The Truth About…Getting Fit. Some of the so-called science seemed distinctly suspect, but the 10,000 steps myth was interesting. Apparently this has no scientific basis but was the result of a 1960s marketing campaign in Japan in the run-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Possibly the key message of the programme was the benefits of HIIT (high intensity interval training) where you raise your heart rate very sharply for a short duration. We do this frequently during our regular fitness classes – if you haven’t noticed, it’s when you power up a hill or do a section of fast walking. This helps strengthen the heart wall and increases your metabolic rate, thus boosting calorie burning and weight loss.
However, whilst HIIT is indeed an excellent way to get fit it ignores the immense benefits of ‘steady state’ exercise where you are working at a constant level just beyond your comfort zone for an extended period of time. This enables the chambers of your heart to fill repeatedly with large volumes of blood thus stretching and expanding your heart capacity, which results in a lower resting heart rate, lower exercising heart rate, and a healthier more efficient heart overall.
The real truth about how to get fit is that you need to mix things up, and that’s exactly what we do in our Nordic walking classes.
Not only will you benefit from these varied aerobic challenges. Also..
- Using the poles will give you that all important total body strength training
- It's fun, social and outdoors and therefore easier to stay motivated
- It’s a powerful whole body weight-bearing exercise, thus slowing the natural decrease in bone density and strength that comes with age
All in all you can be sure that Nordic walking is caring for your entire body - organs, muscles and brain. It is one of the best ways to protect your body against ageing. It's also a gateway to exploring our stunning countryside.