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Phil Gillam: Why it's time to walk the walk

Phil Gillam | Published:

Let your fingers do the walking. That was the old slogan for Yellow Pages, the business telephone directory.

Walking in Shrewsbury's Quarry Park

Depending on your point of view, the catchphrase was either offering you an opportunity to be more efficient or providing you with an excuse to be lazy.

But nowadays, even your fingers don’t need to do so much walking because internet search engines can make things even quicker than looking up a business in Yellow Pages.

And while we check our email accounts, post stuff on Facebook and Twitter or Instagram or share favourite things on Pinterest, our walking shoes gather dust by the door.

While we watch another couple of hours of pointless television, another chance of a walk vanishes.

No wonder huge numbers of us are missing out on exercise.

No wonder so many of us are putting on weight.

And it’s such a crying shame - in more ways than one.

Firstly, exercise and fresh air are of course crucial to our health and wellbeing. Secondly, in a place like Shrewsbury, there are so many lovely vistas to enjoy - tree-lined avenues, riverside walks, parkland, church spires, quiet backstreets, pleasant suburbs, and an embarrassment of gorgeous historic buildings.

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If we cannot be bothered to walk anywhere, even when we live is a beautiful town like ours, what hope is there?

And yet a report has claimed that even a 10-minute walk each week is seen as too much for a third of the people in Shropshire.

Across the Shropshire Council area, nearly a third of people fail to meet the mark. And in the Telford & Wrekin area, four out of 10 people do not manage this simple ask: to walk 10 minutes consecutively each week.

The figures come from from Sport England’s Active Live survey.

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It turns out that Shropshire has a weekly 10-minute walk rate of 30 per cent - in line with the national average.

So - forget The Quarry and The Dingle, forget all those pleasant walks around local streets or along the riverside … we’d rather stay in and watch telly or check our social media!

Oh dear. How sad!

Daydream

And I’m convinced all our miraculous digital devices have a lot to do with this situation.

When we were youngsters we used to go for long walks around the town every Sunday afternoon - partly, I suppose, because there was really nothing else to do!

I think the great film director, Steven Spielberg, was spot on when he said: “Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy birding the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.”

Commenting on the Sport England study, Dr Mike Brennan, Public Health England’s physical activity leader, said: “While we’re starting to see more people being active, getting the nation moving presents a significant challenge and won’t be solved overnight.”

He added something which we are now well-used to hearing these days: that being physically active reduces the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease and type two diabetes.

And he said: “For most people, walking or cycling is the easiest way to be active - and even a 10-minute walk every day can make a real difference to your health.”

Obvious really, isn’t it.

But it seems we keep on needing people to point this out to us, over and over again.

My own experience is that I can be good for a few weeks, watching my diet, going for walks, but then it all drops away and I slide back into lazy habits. I think most people can relate to this.

Yet even some 200 years ago - long before our modern-day concerns about heart attacks and diabetes - a few people had it sorted.

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, said: “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”

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