May is National Walking Month, so it’s time to lace up your walking boots and get out there. Put an umbrella in one pocket and a pair of sunglasses in the other, and you’ll be ready for anything that British springtime weather can throw at you.
Here we look at why walking is so good for your physical and mental health, and explore the best walking apps – for you and your four-pawed friends.
We love a walk
Walking is quite simply one of the best forms of exercise you can take. First of all, it’s free – there are no gym fees involved – and you can do it wherever you are, whenever you like. Just step outside your front door and you’re off.
You don’t have to muck around with complicated bits of equipment, either. There’s no danger of you falling off the back of a treadmill, getting tangled up in a tractor tyre or dropping a kettlebell on your foot.
Good for your body
We all know that walking is excellent for your physical health. It gets your cardiovascular system pumping and helps you stay in shape. By taking regular walks, you can strengthen your heart, lower your blood sugar and tone up your leg muscles.
It’s also a great way to keep your joints healthy, including your knees and hips. The cartilage in your joints is filled with synovial fluid, a viscous substance that acts as a shock absorber. When you walk, oxygen and nutrients are drawn into the cartilage, stimulating production of synovial fluid and helping your joints to stay flexible.
Fresh air, fresh thoughts
Walking has also been proven to do wonders for your mental health. All that fresh air really can blow the cobwebs away and change your state of mind. As you walk, your body releases feel-good happy hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.
In particular, if you can get away into a space full of trees and greenery, perhaps by indulging in some forest bathing, you’ll feel the benefits of slowing down and tuning into the natural world around you.
Get children started on this idea young by taking a Rainbow Walk together. Give your kids some paper and crayons, then go out for a walk. Every time they spot an object in a different colour of the rainbow, ask them to stop and draw a picture of it. This simple exercise helps children to slow down, appreciate the present moment and develop a sense of mindfulness.
Dog + human = walking heaven
If you’re a dog owner, you get a two-for-one deal on your daily exercise. You enjoy all the physical and mental benefits of the walk while your furry friend gets to stretch their legs and relax alongside you.
Why measure your steps?
But how about your steps? Do you measure them or not? And how many steps is enough?
As anyone who’s ever got carried away with an app will admit, there is something fascinating about measuring your steps. You might feel delighted if you hit 20,000 steps on a weekend walk or disappointed if your trip to the shops only adds up to a measly 1,500. You also get a different sense of pride after you’ve climbed up a hill if your app tells you that was the equivalent of walking up 23 flights of stairs.
But how many steps are enough? For a while, 10,000 steps a day was held up as the ideal goal. That was a nice round number that was easy to remember.
However, Professor I-Min Lee at Harvard found that this figure had little basis in fact. Apparently a Japanese pedometer company in the 60s chose 10,000 steps because the Japanese character for 10,000 looks like a person walking. According to this BBC article, the benefits of walking tail off after 7,500 steps.
However many steps you and your pooch plan to take, here are some of the best walking apps that will help you keep track of how far you’ve come.
3 of the best walking apps for dogs
- PitPat – this popular activity monitor is one of the best dog walking apps we’ve heard about. Designed together with vets, it can be used to measure your dog’s activity and weight and it allows you to set activity levels that are perfect for your pooch.
- FitBark 2 – the bone-shaped FitBark 2 monitors your dog’s everyday activities – and their sleep too! Your dog wears it on their collar, so it looks like a bone-shaped bowtie, and you can track your pup’s health and location 24/7.
- PoochPlay – this small, lightweight tracker will monitor your dog’s activity minute by minute, and also offers helpful tips on weight management, as well as reminding you when worming and vaccinations are due.
3 different walking apps for you
If you’re seriously into walking or fitness, you’re probably already covered in devices that monitor your steps and health, with a Garmin and Apple watch on one wrist and a Fitbit on the other.
So, rather than tell you about the apps you already know, here are a few different options to change up your walks.
- WorldWalking – are you bored of doing the same walk every day? How about walking around the coast of Britain or along the Great Wall of China? You’ll be walking those routes virtually, of course, but it’s a great way to motivate yourself to go further.
- Charity Miles – push yourself to clock up more steps by walking for charity. Choose a charity you feel passionate about, log your steps and help turn your miles into money for your chosen good cause.
- Moodbeam One – this wearable device measures your steps and sleep, but also keeps track of your mood to see how your health and fitness are affecting your emotional wellbeing. Clever stuff.
Show us your favourite walks
Do head over to our Facebook and Instagram pages to share your pics of you and your woofer on your favourite walks. We’d particularly like to see any pictures of bow-tie shaped doggy fitness trackers. And if you’ve got any great recommendations for the best walking apps that you and your pooch have discovered, do let us know.