With only a third of people in the UK estimated to be active enough to be fit and healthy, walking is a great way to encourage more of us to improve our health. After all, it's a cheap, easy and fun way to boost your wellbeing.

According to Ramblers (Britain's walking charity), walking briskly on a regular basis also can help improve the performance of your heart, lungs and circulation while lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk of coronary heart disease and strokes. And it can help you manage your weight, improve your flexibility, joint and muscle strength, and make your immune system stronger.

But that's not all. Walking can also help improve your mood and self-image, reduce anxiety and help you get a better night's sleep.

How much is enough?

Brisk walking is a great way to be more physically active and can help you achieve the current recommended activity target, which is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week.

Typically, this may be broken down into five 30-minute activity sessions. Or you could break those 30 minutes down even further into three 10-minute sessions. Just remember to walk briskly enough to increase your heart rate and get warm and slightly out of breath (you should be able to talk but not sing).

Getting started

One of the great things about walking is you can do it whenever you feel like, whether on your own, with friends or with family. Best of all, there are no monthly gym membership fees to pay - the only thing you need is a pair of comfortable shoes (walking shoes or trainers are ideal, but any supportive shoe will do).

You may want to start by simply taking a five- or 10-minute walk around the block, then progress to a circuit around your local park then a longer walk down a country path or along a river or canal.

Try to keep a record of where you walk and how long you walk for, so that you can track your progress week by week. And don't forget, as long as you go at a brisk pace, walking to the train station, bus stop or the shops all count towards your 150 minutes a week too.

Joining a walking group (In the UK)

If you need something to keep you motivated, try joining a local walking group - the ones listed below are for UK only but be sure to check your local area for other walking groups.

The Walking for Health programme, run jointly by Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support, offers more than 3,000 free short walks around the country each week. Visit the website to search for walks in your area.

Another way to find organised walking events is to visit the Walk4Life website, where you can also find someone to walk with if you prefer not to join a group. Many of the walking events are run by local authorities, just click on 'find an event' to find one in your area.

Other organisations you can join that include walking groups include the British Walking Federation,Metropolitan Walkers (for people in their 20s and 30s who live in London and the South East) and - for when you're ready to walk further and for longer, the Long Distance Walkers Association.

You could also find out if your favourite charity has any sponsored walks organised and sign-up for the challenge. Visit the website doitforcharity.com to find a sponsored walk near where you live.

If you're new to exercise or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, check with your doctor, physician or GP before getting started.

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