The concept of ‘wellness’ is something that’s really come to the fore in recent years. Increasingly, we’re discovering the importance of staying active, eating right and avoiding stress. However, if you’re someone who’s not used to physical exercise, it can be hard to know where to start. Team sports, Cross-fit, Zumba, Spin – they can all feel a little intimidating to the uninitiated! Luckily, as Tara Curran from the Irish Heart Foundation explains, there’s a really easy way to stay fit, and it won’t cost you a penny.
Walking for Health
“Walking is something people can do regardless of their fitness level, age or ability,” Tara begins. In fact, simply by walking we can meet the National Physical Activity Guidelines, something that unfortunately only about 32% of adults currently do. “We need to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderately intense activity, five days a week”, says Tara. “It gives our heart and lungs a workout, helping them to work more efficiently.” Moderate intensity is different for everyone, but Tara says there are three simple ways you can tell if you’re walking briskly enough:
• You start to feel warmer
• You feel your heart beating in your chest (but not pulsating in your ears)
• Your breathing becomes slightly deeper
Tara has lots of handy suggestions when it comes to meeting the guidelines. “Get out for a lunchtime walk,” she says. “If you drive to work, park in a spot that’s further away than usual. Instead of calling someone in the office, walk over to their desk.” Another handy way to monitor activity says Tara, is to count your steps. “From the moment you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night, it’s recommended that you take 10,000 steps. Within those 10,000 steps, 30 minutes should be moderate intensity.” The effects – both physical and mental – are pretty amazing. “In terms of managing our weight, reducing stress levels and general wellness, getting in 10,000 steps has great benefits”, says Tara. Turning it up to moderate activity meanwhile, “can help control blood pressure, cholesterol and the overall stresses that contribute to heart disease.”
Top 5 Slís
Tara also coordinates the Slí na Sláinte programme; which has over 400 routes dotted around the country. Though they vary in length, they have handy markers every km, meaning walkers can dip in and out of them. They’ve all got an even terrain, so they’re suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Here are Tara’s top 5 Slís:
1. East Coast Slí
The longest of the routes, the East Coast Slí runs between the charming villages of Malahide and Greystones. It’s an idyllic, coastal trail, perfect for a family adventure.
2. Salthill Slí
On the west coast, the 5km Salthill Slí in Galway is just waiting to be discovered. Running from Spanish Arch to Tobermaconry, it boasts incredible views of Galway Bay.
3. Schull Slí
Stunning West Cork is known for its wild beauty, and Schull is no exception! This Slí is actually made up of two routes; a 2.7km loop, and a shorter 1.6km version.
4. Virginia Forest Park Slí
The pretty 5.5km Virginia Forest Park Slí in Cavan winds its way around Deerpark Forest, with views of Lough Ramor and Virginia Golf Club.
5. Wexford Town Slí
Wexford’s Town Slí is 7km long, with smaller Heritage and Historic loops around the town centre.
With all of these great options readily and easily available, we hope you’re inspired to take up walking. It really does provide an enjoyable way to better heart health for you, your family and colleagues. Visit Irish Heart Foundation for more information.