May is National Walking Month, and I think this fantastic campaign gives us a wonderful opportunity to kick start a healthier lifestyle for our children and families.
From personal experience, I know how pressure can build up and lead to families spending less time together as a unit. Walking is a fantastic way for the whole family to enjoy activity together, and the advantage is that it doesn’t cost a bean!
Going for a walk in a safe environment gives children a feeling of total freedom, which encourages their natural enjoyment of running, skipping, hopping and jumping. As you will know, it’s amazing what children can get up to once their imaginations start to work! A boulder in a field can instantly become a mountain, a log is a bridge across a canyon, and this freedom to imagine and play has psychological and emotional benefits as well as physical benefits from the exercise.
There’s so much you can do while you’re on a family walk.
Whether you are off to the beach, a field or a local park, if you’re walking there you’ll probably have to walk along a road to get there, this is a great time for mum and dad to teach the children road awareness, too.
Why is walking so great for kids?
For the children who don’t like like structured sports, or just don’t have an opportunity to get involved, adding any physical activity into their lives is a good thing, for many reasons:
- It’s great fun and can be interesting for everyone if we plan walks carefully
- It’s a fantastic way for families to bond, while they enjoy the fresh air
- Children get to socialise with other people in a safe environment, along with mum and dad.
- There is an argument that exercise can positively affect children’s emotions, so walking can calm a child down, improving their concentration and focus. This leads to benefits in the classroom too.
- Children get the chance to learn how to think independently – react, decide and take decisions for themselves in a safe environment, which is fantastic for development and building them as a young people.
- Walking to school is another positive thing for kids – teachers often say that children who walk to school are mentally and emotionally more prepared for the school day, as opposed to children who are driven to school. If it’s possible, maybe start with one walk to school a week.
…and why walking is great for our planet too.
Walking together as a family helps us to set a good example to our children, and it teaches them how they can play an important part in helping to keep our planet healthy. It’s quite incredible to think that if every family decided to take one walk to school instead of driving, it would reduce the negative effects of car traffic by a staggering 10 per cent. What a fantastic platform for mums and dads to use, to start teaching kids about their world and how we need to protect it.
Fartlek Training – fun for all the family
I’ve got an idea for something you can try when you’re taking your children for a walk in the park or a field – this is my background as strength and conditioning coach coming out!
Have you heard of Fartlek training? It’s a training method that’s translated as ‘speed play’ in Swedish. This ingenious and fun training method bundles together lots of different exercise intensities during long runs.
I thought it would be a great idea to use Fartlek training to add value to your walks. So here are my tips for your Fartlek walk:
Plan your walk in advance and plan to include a few stops along the way where you can introduce extra activities, but don’t tell the kids, make it seem spontaneous.
- Include jumping
- Include hopping
- Introduce lunging and jumping
- Have a little sprinting race
- Take some silk scarves and play catching games
- Play some balancing games
Be as creative as possible with these activities. If you’re doing some lunging, put one foot on a log while doing this. Jumping off small rocks is another example, or you can use small branches that may be lying around as hurdles for straddle jumps.
If you let your imagination go wild, there are so many ways to make a standard walk into an adventure!!
I really hope you all enjoy your walks, I’m planning some great little walks for my grandchildren and our family, so who knows, I might bump into you if you take some walks around Suffolk…
More information on National Walking Month