As we enter autumn, many of us think about the long nights ahead with dread. Because they can mean isolation, being cold and higher heating costs.
It’s true. A good walk can result in all kinds of mental and physical health benefits, blowing away the cobwebs and leaving you feeling alert and alive.
For starters, it’s a great way to stay warm in the chilly weather. When you walk briskly, your heart rate increases which in turn raises your body temperature – improving your cardiovascular health in the process.
And if you’re looking to shape up, a regular walk will help to strengthen and shape your legs, giving definition to your calves, quads and hamstrings and lifting your glutes – that’s bottom to you and me!
You’ll be burning calories too. A 10 stone person burns around 100 calories in half an hour – that’s the equivalent of a two-finger KitKat. And if you think of every half hour in terms of KitKats, you’ll soon feel even more inspired!
The NHS recommends we walk 10,000 steps a day – around five miles – which should take about an hour and 40 minutes.
Other health benefits of walking:
- Walking is a weight-bearing activity; it stimulates and strengthens bones, increasing their density. This is really important, especially for women. It also helps maintain healthy joints so may stave off conditions such as arthritis.
- Exposure to the sun is important for your body to produce Vitamin D, which is essential for keeping the right amount of calcium and phosphorus in our blood. These are the two nutrients that work together to make our bones strong.
- You will boost your circulation and increase the oxygen supply to every cell in your body, helping you to feel more alert and energized.
- Getting active releases feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety.
- Joining a walking group or meeting friends to walk and chat is a great way to banish feelings of isolation and loneliness.
And when you return from your walk what better way to celebrate than with a warming bowl of homemade soup? This recipe can be doubled if you feel like inviting your walking pals round, or halved if it’s just the two of you.
Vegetable and lentil soup (serves 4)
- Chopped onion or a sliced leek
- Crushed clove of garlic
- Tin chopped tomatoes and tin filled with water
- Veggie stock cube
- Handful each of chopped butternut squash/pumpkin, potatoes and carrots
- ¼ teaspoon chilli powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried mixed herbs
- Handful of dried red lentils or tin of drained cannellini beans
- Salt and pepper
- Chopped celery stalk
- A few chopped walnuts
- Tablespoon of vegetable oil for frying
All veg amounts are approximate and can be varied according to preference and season.
How to prepare:
- Put the oil in a large pan and heat on medium. Add onions (or leek) and soften, then put in the garlic and all other veg. Cook on low to medium for 10 mins – stirring to stop veg sticking and burning.
- Add chopped tomatoes and water, stock cube, herbs and spices and dried lentils or tinned beans. Cook for another 20 mins or until lentils and veg are soft. Use more water if it looks too dry or thick.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Serve as it is (or blended) with crusty wholemeal bread and topped with walnuts
If you fancy something different…
Substitute the veg for parsnips, swede, sweet potato, celeriac, cabbage or kale. You can try other pulses, too, such as tinned red kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas or quinoa. This soup tastes great with curry powder, cumin, smoked paprika and a bayleaf.
Now you have the perfect recipe for a winter warmer – a healthy, vigorous walk followed by some tasty, nutritious soup.
Find out more…