Health & Wellbeing

Time to take a walk

Woman in fitness clothes walking through a field

There was a great story doing the rounds this week (check out the lifehacker website and mailonline) about a tube map, created by GP Wayne Osbourne, that measures each bit of the London Underground in terms of how many calories you’re likely to burn if you walk to your destination.

The calories are printed next to each stop so for those who break down their exercise in calorie burn and the treat equivalent, Canary Wharf to London Bridge is 319 calories, which roughly equates to a large slice of pizza. Sweet lovers take note: Walking from Bond Street to Tottenham Court Road is 66 calories, which is approximately two squares of chocolate. And so the list goes on…

Dr Osborne points out that, in the very centre of London, there is often not that much time difference between taking the tube and actually walking to the destination anyway so you can take the healthier option, and feel good about yourself for doing so, without making much impact in terms of the time you’re taking out of your day.

Osborne says, “If you want an economical way to get in shape, and lower your risk of serious illness, then hopping off the Tube one or two stops early and walking the rest of the way is a great way to keep fit and burn off some extra calories.”

There are many who are sympathetic to the idea that exercise isn’t always fun – sometimes you simply don’t feel like making the effort to go to the gym or the swimming pool, which involves time in the changing rooms and a schlepp there and back. Anything that can be absorbed fairly seamlessly into the daily routine has to be a good thing and that is most definitely where walking comes in.

Often under-valued as a form of exercise on the grounds that it’s something we all just do (even if it’s only to the fridge and back !), it’s an ideal activity as it requires no specific training and is open to everyone, regardless of how fit they currently are. It costs nothing, it gets us around and there are a myriad of health benefits attached to this gentle exercise.

Walking is officially acknowledged by the NHS as playing a part in reducing the risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers. It is also recognised as beneficial for those who are hoping to lose weight.

So, in the same week that it’s reported that weight management services are being rationed by the NHS, it’s heartening to hear of a simply-packaged, easy solution like the new tube map that should appeal to all.

For the vast majority of us who live outside of London, the principle remains the same. Shave a stop off your bus journey or take the car out for one less short journey or two a week – the school run or that quick dash to the local shop for a pint of milk. Make the small effort to go on foot instead.

And, if it helps, think of it in terms of food. My school run, when walked at a fast pace, is a chocolate hobnob !