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Spreading the Walking Word for a Healthy Nation

Two national news stories have caught my eye in the last few weeks, entirely different topics but both linked to the sad rise of inactivity that seems to be gripping the nation. The health impact of inactivity can lead to suffering in humans and canines alike, so maybe we should be trying to pair up buddies that might be able to help each other…

walkyourwaytohealthMore than 6 million adults aged between 40 and 60 (that is 41% of people in that age category) do not achieve 10 minutes of continuous brisk walking over the course of a month. Yes, you read that correctly, that is failing to achieve 10 minutes of walking per month. Not per day, or per week, or per fortnight… per month. This headline hit the national news following a report from Public Health England released in August 2017. The study covered 200,000 people aged 40 to 60 and found that 45% of the men and 38% of the women failed to take one 10-minute brisk walk per month.

The findings also revealed how lifestyles have changed over time, showing that people in the UK are 20% less active now than they were in the 1960s and on average walk 15 miles less a year than 2 decades ago. It seems people aren’t walking as part of their everyday routine. Walking to the shops or bus stop, walking to the pub or taking a walk at lunch time are all becoming rarer events as cars are used for even the shortest of journeys. Only 22% of journeys now involve walking. And yet, taking at least one brisk 10 minute walk a day has been shown to reduce the risk of early death by 15%.

It seems such a sad situation. Not only are we physically designed to walk, it also brings such joy to so many of us. It saddens me to think that so many people are missing out on the joy of walking. Quite honestly, if computer-based work or health issues prevent me from being able to walk the dog for even a handful of days, I start to go stir crazy.

Speaking of dogs, that brings me to my next national news story of late. This comes from researchers at the University of Cambridge in a study about canine obesity. In developed countries, between one and two in every three dogs (34-59%) is overweight, a condition associated with reduced lifespan, mobility problems, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. That is such a large proportion and, yet again, another statistic that saddens me. When I think of how much dogs of a healthy weight enjoy playing with doggie friends, running in the woodland or just walking down to the newsagent for the daily newspaper, I can’t bear to think of those that are carrying too much weight to experience these joys of canine life.

labradorThe researchers have been analysing the genetics of Labradors. Labradors are the most common breed of dog in the UK, USA and many other countries worldwide and the breed is known as being particularly obesity-prone. In a study of 310 pet and assistance dog Labradors, researchers found that a variant of one gene in particular, known as POMC, was strongly associated with weight, obesity and appetite. Around one in four (23%) Labradors is thought to carry at least one copy of the variant. Whilst genetic research continues, we return to the need for diet and exercise to manage our national problems with obesity.

Which brings me to my thoughts about collaboration. First, it occurs to me that as avid walkers who have already discovered the joys and benefits of putting one foot in front of the other, we could all do the world of good by sharing the secrets with some of our friends and family. Second, I wonder if some of those inactive middle-aged adults, that are too busy to look after a dog 24/7, could buddy up with dogs in need of walkies for mutual benefit. In the meantime, we will get back to growing the iFootpath world of walking guides, with the hope of inspiring more people every day to discover the wonderful world of walking.

14 September 2017
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Sunday, 24 June 2018
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