Walking wellness: five ways to get the most out of your hike

Woman walking through a forest glade

Walking is often dismissed as being an effective form of exercise because it doesn’t seem sufficiently hardcore! However, walking provides some amazing health benefits, both mentally and physically.

With the warmer weather and longer days on the way, it’s a great time to get outdoors and enjoy this type of exercise.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares how to get the most benefit out of our walks.

Get pacey

Walking is great for any level of physical fitness, and it can be tailored individually.  If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey or recovering from injury, then you can build up physical fitness quite quickly.

However, whilst it’s not about doing an endurance stint, research suggests that by getting slightly out of breath (meaning the heart rate is elevated), you’ll be rewarded with greater benefits.  Not only is this good for the cardiovascular system, but also the brain. 

A woman with a rucksack enjoying a walk outdoors in a forest

The brain has a large blood flow feeding it, and by elevating your heart rate, this also helps the brain both in the short and longer term.  If you’re feeling a little brain foggy, a brisk walk can really help.

Be in the moment

One of the many benefits to walking in the great outdoors is being close to nature with all the beauty that brings.  If you live in a busy town or city, you might not always be able to escape to the countryside but try and find a green space such as a local park of woodland.

shutterstock_171654062 woman hiking Oct15

Our lives are very busy and noisy, especially because we tend to live in an ‘always on’ world.  The countryside enables you to practice mindfulness by just enjoying the peace and tranquillity that nature provides.  As such, walking provides myriad benefits to mental wellbeing, especially if you turn off your devices and enjoy the moment.

Fuel your body

The body does, of course, need to be properly fuelled, especially if you’re going on a longer hike.  Before you start, make sure you’ve eaten a good breakfast.  Whole grain porridge oats provide a great pre-walk power-up, as their energy is released slowly into the bloodstream.  Plus, porridge oats are loaded with energising B-vitamins.

Porridge topped with bananas and blueberries

If you’re going out for the day, then pack some lunch that provides both protein and carbohydrates. Sandwiches made with whole grain bread are fine and easily transportable.  However, if you’re gluten-free, then there are loads of multi grain wraps available, that contain millet, chickpeas, or other gluten-free ingredients. 


Load them with protein and some veggies such as egg, tuna, feta, cucumber, rocket, hummus, avocado, chopped carrot – there’s no shortage of tasty options.  If you’ve got colour in your wrap or sandwich, you’ve got plenty of nutrients too! Importantly, you don’t need to eat loads just because you’re out on a walk; the body has plenty of fuel stored as well.

Don’t forget to hydrate

There are plenty of sports drinks on the market but unless you’re walking or running a marathon, they really aren’t needed, and they tend to be high in sweeteners or other sugars.  If you’re able to plan ahead drink plenty of water the day before and then take a litre with you – you’ll need more if you’re out for a long time and the weather is warm.


Hydration is as important as food, and even more so when it comes to exercise.  You can start to feel very sluggish if you haven’t drunk sufficient water. If plain water is not your bag, you can always dilute it slightly with some fruit juice, which can help rehydration quicker.

Rest and recover

With any form of physical exercise, recovery is as important.  This is when the body heals and re-builds. As part of the body’s normal processes, it is constantly breaking down and re-building.  However, it needs plenty of protein, especially in the meal after the walk, and some rest too. 

CLose up of woman exercising and stretching outside

Stretching is often forgotten about, but it really helps prevent injury and stop that feeling of stiffness in the muscles and joints that can occur the next day.  If you find you get lower back ache when walking (which is very common), this is sometimes down to tight hamstrings so lying on your back and pulling your straight legs individually towards the body, can really help.  Equally, tight calf muscles can create problems in the feet or knees.  So be kind to your body; it’s working hard for you.

Enjoy all the wonderful benefits walking can bring this spring.



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All images: Shutterstock


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