Published on 18 December 2019 09:55 AM
With over 3,000 parks totalling 35,000 acres, London is the greenest major city in Europe! In fact, London was recently named the world’s first National Park City! With so many green spaces to visit and explore, we want older Londoners to get out and about to walk and talk in London’s parks!
There is overwhelming evidence that regular physical activity, such as walking, is one of the best things you can do to keep healthy – even if you have a long-term health condition. There is also increasing evidence that spending time in green spaces such as parks and woodlands is good for our mental health, as well as our physical health. Reseach shows that walking in green spaces has far greater benefits for older people's physical health than walking alongside busy roads, where air pollution can actually reverse the beneficial effects of walking!
For most people, walking is the easiest way to meet physical activity recommendations, as it is a free and low impact activity which is easy to start slowly and build up gradually. It’s also one of the easiest activities to fit into your everyday life, not least because you don’t need to concentrate on the walking itself, leaving you free to enjoy your surroundings, chat to friends and family or just relax.
There are massive health benefits linked to regular walks too. In particular, walking can: enhance your mood and increase your confidence; help you maintain balance and coordination; and reduce the risk of falls by keeping your joints flexible. Even people who take up physical activity late in life will benefit hugely from walking in their local parks. Research has found that previously inactive men who became active at the age of 50 are 49% more likely to survive to the age of 60 than men who remained inactive.
Park walks are a great opportunity to meet new people and form new friendships, which can be a huge boost to your mental health and wellbeing. You’re also far more likely to want to get out and about if you have a regular walking partner to share the time with. Luckily it's so easy to join a walking group near you, all you have to do is head to the Walking for Health website and enter your postcode. You'll then find all the information you need to either join the group for one of their regular walks or the contact details for your local scheme coordinator if you want to find out more details.
The Park Walks Campaign will see Age UK London team up with London Sport, Escape Pain, Ramblers, and Walking for Health to promote park walking across London. We'll be producing resources for older people's organisations to spread across London - including leaflets to promote the benefits of walking and a toolkit to help spread the word as far as possible. We'll also be helping older Londoners to set up their own walking groups in their area to ensure they continue to enjoy London's green spaces for many years to come. To start this process, we will be holding trial walks in four of the least active boroughs of London.
To kick off the Park Walks Campaign we hosted a conference at our offices on 17 January. At this conference we outlined the Park Walks campaign and highlighted the wide range of support available to access information and activities across London. Speakers included: Ed Nicholas, Programme Manger of Walking for Health; Bethany Hall Project Officer at London Sport; Professor Mike Hurley from Escape Pain; and Tony Burch, Trustee of Age UK London.
You can download all the resources from the day to share with your networks by clicking here.
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