Happy New Year from all of us here at Age UK London! With the start of a brand new decade upon us, there’s no better time to start deciding on some resolutions to make the coming years as successful and enjoyable as possible! These resolutions don’t have to be huge (you don’t need to suddenly start lifting your body-weight at the gym or giving up chocolate forever!), in fact one of the best changes you can make is to go for a brief walk in your local park. There is overwhelming evidence that regular physical activity, such as walking, is one of the best things you can do to keep healthy – even if you have a long-term health condition. With this in mind, Age UK London have launched our Park Walks Campaign, to get older Londoners out and about in London’s parks!
With over 3,000 parks totalling 35,000 acres, London is the greenest major city in Europe! In fact, London was recently named the world’s first National Park City! With so many green spaces to visit and explore, the Park Walks Campaign will see Age UK London team up with London Sport, Escape Pain, Ramblers, and Walking for Health to promote park walking across London.
Why Park Walks?
There is increasing evidence that spending time in green spaces is good for both our mental health and our physical health. Research by The Lancet has found that walking in green spaces has far greater benefits for older people’s physical health than walking alongside busy roads. The research states that traffic fumes in city streets ‘largely wipe out exercise benefits for over-60s’, after they compared participants walking in Hyde Park and down Oxford Street. By looking at a wide spectrum of physiologic factors — vascular function, in particular — the researchers found that those participants who walked in the park all showed increased beneficial effects regarding the function of their arteries from walking. Those who strolled down the busy street, though, had weakened effects. The study’s authors point to the harmful effects of air pollution — including high amounts of air particulates — caused mainly by constant vehicular activity.
How does Walking Improve my Health?
For most people, walking is the easiest way to meet physical activity recommendations, as it is a free and low impact activity which is easy to start slowly and build up gradually. It’s also one of the easiest activities to fit into your everyday life, not least because you don’t need to concentrate on the walking itself, leaving you free to enjoy your surroundings, chat to friends and family or just relax.
There are massive health benefits linked to regular walks too. In particular, walking can: enhance your mood and increase your confidence; help you maintain balance and coordination; and reduce the risk of falls by keeping your joints flexible. Even people who take up physical activity late in life will benefit hugely from walking in their local parks. Research has found that previously inactive men who became active at the age of 50 are 49% more likely to survive to the age of 60 than men who remained inactive.
In addition, park walks are a great opportunity to meet new people and form new friendships, which can be a huge boost to your mental health and wellbeing. You’re also far more likely to want to get out and about if you have a regular walking partner to share the time with. Luckily it’s so easy to join a walking group near you by heading to the Walking for Health website and entering your postcode. You’ll then find all the information you need to either join the group for one of their regular walks or the contact details for your local scheme coordinator if you want to find out more details. If you already regularly meet up with a group of friends, you could also set up your own walking group – you would only need to add a half hour walk through your local park to your existing plans for the day.
How will the Park Walks Campaign Promote Walking in London?
As mentioned, the Park Walks Campaign will see Age UK London team up with London Sport, Escape Pain, Ramblers, and Walking for Health to promote park walking across London. We’ll be producing resources for older people’s organisations to spread across London – including leaflets to promote the benefits of walking and a toolkit to help spread the word as far as possible. We’ll also be helping older Londoners to set up their own walking groups in their area to ensure they continue to enjoy London’s green spaces for many years to come. To start this process, we will be holding trial walks in four of the least active boroughs of London.
To kick off the Park Walks campaign, we’ll also be hosting a conference to outline the Park Walks campaign and highlight the wide range of support available to access information and activities across London. Speakers will include: Ed Nicholas, Programme Manger of Walking for Health; Bethany Hall Project Officer at London Sport; Professor Mike Hurley from Escape Pain; and Tony Burch, Trustee of Age UK London.
The event will take place on Friday 17th January 2020 from 10:15am to 03:15pm at Tavis House, 1-6 Tavistock Square WC1H 9NA. You can book your place for free by clicking here.
Find out all about Age UK London’s current campaigns by heading to www.agefriendlylondon.org.uk.