What if you found out there was a free ‘miracle cure’ proved to be more effective than many prescribed drugs for a wide range of conditions? Research(1) by the Academy of Royal Medical College has recognised that regular exercise such as walking can offer important health and wellbeing benefits including prevention of dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, heart disease and the risk of other serious condition by at least 30%. The Mental Health Foundation has also found that taking some simple steps as part of your regular exercise each week enhances our wellbeing lowering the risk of depression by 20-30%(2). Yet, only 7 in 10 adults living in Northern Ireland take part in regular outdoor recreation every week(3), whilst over half of those aged 75+ reporting that they never walk for more than 15 minutes continuously(4).
Walk NI is this week launching a new website WalkNI.com aimed at making walking easy, accessible and enjoyable for everyone, from those who don’t walk to people who see walking as part of their lifestyles, whatever the ability and agility. With over 700 walking routes from leisurely strolls to vigorous treks, the site focuses on making walking easier with routes mapped out, hints and advice to help more people to get active and enjoy the stunning scenery and rewards of our wonderful six counties.
On the plus side, already 1 in 5 of us walk regularly, with research(4) showing that people who are very satisfied with their life are the most likely to walk on a regular basis. Reflecting this, the new site is filled with easy to select and navigate walks, downloadable maps, and handy tips and hints for walking, parking, what to wear and even where to eat nearby!
Developed by Outdoor Recreation NI the site wants to encourage more people to walk, and for those who are already active, to inspire them to try new places and routes, and meander further into the glorious spring countryside. Bespoke interactive mapping allows easy access to a digital map wherever people are meaning walking around in circles is a thing of the past!
Commenting on the new website, and hundreds of walks available to date, Jayne Woodrow, who manages WalkNI said;
“We know that people here love walking and so have created the WalkNI website as an easy platform for people to access walks at the touch of a button. The website, supported by NIEA and 6 Councils is bursting with walks, from short strolls through enchanting gardens to more challenging long-distance trails such as the Ulster Way – it is a one stop hub for all walking here in Northern Ireland. The website is a valuable tool for existing walkers here, however with a recent survey highlighting that over 28% of population in NI did not walk on any occasion for more than 15 mins, and the older we get, the less we walk, it is also aimed at encouraging people to walk and be more active.
The Continuous Household Survey(3) has found that those not in paid employment and ethnic minorities are the least likely to participate in outdoor recreation. WalkNI as a free tool has a vital role to play not only sharing free and accessible walks but also introduce them to a variety of walking groups to create reasons to walk.
With our growing and aging population, an epidemic of suicides, loneliness and large percentage of society medicated to cope with anxiety and depression walking has a vital role to play. The easiest form of exercise walking is a great way to socialise and get some fresh air, and time away from stresses and strains of life, with 51% of those aged 75+ reporting that they never walk for more than 15 mins continuously we are hoping the site acts as a way to encourage more people, across all ages to get their walking shoes on, and get outdoors.” Jayne concluded.
Welcoming the new website David Small, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Environmental Agency said:
“NIEA are delighted to have partnered with Outdoor Recreation NI and local councils to update WalkNI. This website showcases the fantastic variety of routes available right on people’s doorsteps and helps local communities and visitors to explore our living, working and active landscape. We hope the website will help people connect with nature and have an ongoing positive impact on each of our health and well-being.”
So, what are you waiting for? Discover WalkNI.com for yourself and get some inspiration for your next walk at WalkNI.com
- Exercise: The miracle cure and the role of the doctor in promoting it, 2015, Academy of Royal Medical Colleges
- Let’s Get Physical, the impact of physical activity on wellbeing, 2013, Mental Health Foundation
- Continuous Household Survey 2017-18
- Health Survey Northern Ireland: First Results 2013/14, DHSS&PS