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Get a spring in your step without the sprains and strains during National Walking Month

If you're struggling to reach your recommended 10,000 steps a day, make National Walking Month the time to make some changes. Grab a friend and join the hundreds of thousands of people celebrating the health benefits of walking this month.

Did you know that walking for just 20 minutes a day can burn up to 100 calories, and if you walked to work every day for a year you would save 17kg of carbon dioxide from being released into the environment - not only good for you but good for the planet!

According to a study by Mind, 88 per cent of people saw an overall improvement in mood after going for a walk outside, and with the weather getting warmer you have no excuses. You may even discover a new park, shop or lunch stop right on your doorstep!

During spring half term why not spend some quality time with family by going for a stroll outside together, or grab a picnic and go for a walk in the countryside. Ramblers, which is a charity that promotes walking for pleasure, health and leisure, offers hundreds of walking routes each week on their website for free. You can search in or around your area by simply putting in your postcode and choosing a route depending on how long, short or difficult you want your walk to be! It's important to be careful on uneven terrain, especially in the countryside.

Dr Aqil Chaudary, a GP from Erdington and clinical lead at Birmingham CrossCity Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: "I would encourage everyone to try to do some physical activity. It can lead to more aches, strains and sprains, especially if you've not exercised in a while. Make sure you don't push yourself too much to start with, and always follow these basic tips to warm up and cool down properly."

Basic tips include:

  • Warm up - Warming up is exercising at a lower intensity in order to get the blood circulating and let your body know that you are preparing for exercise. For many of your walks it will only be necessary to warm up about five minutes
  • Flexibility exercises - These exercises are part of your warm up and should be done after you have warmed up with 5 to 10 minutes of easy walking
  • Walk - You should be ready to complete your walk now at your normal walking pace. For the first few weeks do not push too hard. Your breathing should be elevated, but you should not be gasping for air
  • Cool down - At the end of your walk you need to walk at a slower pace to cool down. The harder you have worked out the longer you should cool down
  • Stretch - This is such a neglected area for many people. Start off right and take the time to stretch AFTER every workout. In the beginning stretches should take at least 5 minutes. As you increase distance and pace you will probably need to stretch longer.

If you are unlucky enough to get a sprain or strain you can treat yourself at home using over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. However, if your injury is more serious you can call NHS 111 for advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All you need to do is dial 111 to talk to the NHS.

Alternatively, visit your local walk-in or urgent care centre.

For more information about treating sprains and strains, visit http://www.nhs.uk 

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