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Healthy holidays - Where to go walking this summer

NHS Choices Feature

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Walking anywhere is good for your health, but in the countryside the benefits are even greater.

"Walking is simple, free, and medically by far the best prescription for the 21st century," says Professor Sir Muir Gray, director of the National Campaign for Walking.

Walking can help you lose weight, reduce the risks of serious diseases such as diabetes and stroke, and help you feel and look better.

It not only brings you health benefits, it can be a great way to spend time with your family. Walking and talking can make conversations between parents and children more relaxed.

"Many people find talking side by side as they walk, instead of face to face, much easier and more engaging," says Sir Muir.

Walking anywhere is good for you but walking in a natural environment is even better for you and your family.

"We now know that walking on the grimmest street is beneficial for your health as long as you're safe," says Sir Muir. "However, there are additional benefits from being surrounded by nature." 

Research suggests that exposure to natural open spaces can have a wide range of health benefits. Being out in a natural environment can reduce stress, for example, and encourage people to be more active.

Where to go walking this summer

National Parks

The UK's 15 National Parks are protected areas where you can enjoy vast expanses of spectacular countryside.

See the National Parks' events page to find free guided walks and other activities for the whole family during the summer holidays. They include settings such as Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons and the Cairngorms.

If you want to stay for one or more nights in a National Park, there are several budget options including camping at a campsite, wild camping and staying in a barn or hostel. For more information, see the National Parks' camping page.

The National Trust

The National Trust cares for some of the most stunning landscapes in the UK, including long stretches of the coastline.

You can download walking itineraries and find suggestions about free activities for the family on the website.

The Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust organises guided walks, talks, tree planting and fundraising events in its woods across the UK. To find out about woods near you and the activities on offer this summer, visit the website.

The Forestry Commission

Use the Forestry Commission website to find out about woods and forests near you. You can search by type of activity - such as walking and cycling - and by location. The Forestry Commission also runs various events such as family bike rides and fitness days.

Ramblers

The Ramblers website is a very useful resource for information on all aspects of walking in Britain. It includes tips on making walking fun for kids, information on walking for people with disabilities and people who have long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

Accessible walks

To find walks that are accessible for people pushing buggies and for wheelchair users, see Walks with Buggies and Walks with Wheelchairs.

Walking for Health

Use the walk finder on the Walking for Health website to find out about your nearest health walk scheme. These are community schemes, designed to encourage people to go for more walks.
Medical Review: July 12, 2013

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