What a difference a day makes: the view from the Cove on New Year’s Day. Not as clear and colourful as it had been the day before. Even on grey days though, I find the view of the bay compelling.
I was out three times on New Year’s Day. And the day after. And the day after that. And on many days in January.
A screenshot of my January walks from MapMyWalk.
In 2018, when I was completing the 1000 mile challenge, my ‘Little and Often’ approach served me well. In the first half of 2019, in training for the 10in10 charity walk, I tried to make my walks longer, but maybe didn’t squeeze as many in. Never the less, I was still well on course to walk a 1000 miles last year. But then the MapMyWalk app packed up on my ageing phone, so it became more difficult to keep track of my milage, and the nature of our summer holiday wasn’t too conducive for getting a lot of walking in.
In September, back at work, I should’ve picked up the cudgel, but didn’t.
January 2nd. Another early start.
In December, B and I availed ourselves of free trial membership of a Cross Fit gym in Kendal. We enjoyed it so much that, when we were offered discounted membership, I was sorely tempted to join, even after I’d worked out that there were no classes, aside from the introductory lessons we had already done, that we could actually make.
I contemplated giving the Cross Fit gym in Lancaster a whirl, but then over Christmas, when I had time to consider my options, I began to rethink.
I read this interview with Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara, who advocates walking both for mental health and for maintaining cognitive abilities. I was so impressed that I borrowed his book ‘In Praise of Walking’ from the library, although I have to confess that I didn’t finish it: it’s wide-ranging, I would recommend the sections on neuroscience.
I also read this long article, also from the Guardian, and was impressed with its reasoning. The principal argument, it seems to me, is that it is inactivity which is the enemy, and that periodic bouts of intense activity are not the answer, and may even be counter-productive:
For those of us who can’t move to Sardinia and become a shepherd, a review published in the Lancet in 2016 found that “high levels of moderate-intensity physical activity (ie, about 60-75 min per day) seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time”.
So even if we go to the gym on a Saturday morning, our absolute inactivity at other times can still be damaging to the body. Low and moderate activity for longer or sustained periods seems to produce the best results. It looks like excessive high-intensity activity (the kind we see in elite athletes) drives metabolism and cell turnover, and may even, when all factors are taken into account, accelerate the ageing process.
‘High levels of moderate-intensity physical activity’ sounds like walking to me. Indeed:
So far, researchers agree that sustained periods of low-level activity seem to work well. Aiming for 10,000 steps a day is a good idea, but 15,000 better resembles the distances likely covered by our prehistoric ancestors, and indeed by those Sardinian centenarians.
A trial suggested to me that 15,000 steps equates to about 6 miles for me. (I’ve subsequently realised, if I believe MapMyWalk, that it’s actually a bit further). I’m sure that I was also influenced in my choice of that distance, by my fondness for this quote from Bertrand Russell:
Unhappy business men, I am convinced, would increase their happiness more by walking six miles every day than by any conceivable change of philosophy.
So I resolved to attempt to walk 6 miles every day. I knew that it was probably a quixotic enterprise, but I’m fond of those too. And actually, in January I very nearly averaged that distance each day. Since then, things have got busier and I haven’t done quite so well, but I’ve still been out and about a great deal.
Many of those walks have been in the dark, but few, surprisingly, given how much rain we had this winter, in a downpour. Even so, I have lots of photographs, and lots of walks to report. I’m going to have to be selective, and will probably concatenate several walks into single posts as I have done here, whilst ignoring others altogether.