Autumn walks

Walking is a simple and easy form of exercise, and is particularly enjoyable during the colourful autumn months, says Simon Barnett

During autumn, as the weather gets colder, it's all too easy to get stuck indoors. But nature puts on such an incredible display at this time of year that it would be a real shame to miss.

Going out for an autumn walk will not only help you stay active, but also boost your mood with appreciating all the beautiful colours of the changing leaves.

It's important to wear footwear and clothing to suit the changing weather conditions. Have enough warm clothes, a waterproof coat and footwear, wear a warm hat and gloves, and make sure you have enough drinking water.

Several thin layers are better than one thick layer – warm air gets trapped between the layers and provides insulation, and you can add or remove layers if the temperature changes. Choose materials that direct moisture away from the skin and dry quickly – avoid cotton which absorbs sweat.

Why walking is good for you

Physical activity, like walking, can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, obesity, the most common type of diabetes, many cancers, depression and even Alzheimer's.

The chief medical officer recommends that people do 150 minutes of physical exercise a week, or 30 minutes for five days a week. However, only around a third of English adults are sufficiently active, while a third are very inactive, doing less than 30 minutes a week. Less than a third of children are sufficiently active.

Walking is a great way to get back to fitness as it places very low strain on the body, making it suitable for almost anyone. Walking for 20 minutes on a flat even surface helps to burn around 100 calories; that's the same as swimming for 10 minutes, playing football for 12 minutes or doing aerobics for 16 minutes.

All walking is beneficial, but for the greatest benefits to heart, lungs and blood pressure, brisk is best. You should be breathing a little faster, feeling a little warmer and can feel your heart beating a little faster, but you should still feel comfortable and be able to talk.

4 of the best autumn walks

Enjoy the stunning colours of autumn with these walks suggested by Forestry Commission England (www.forestry.gov.uk).

Grizedale Forest, Cumbria
Grizedale Tarn Trail
Distance: 3.5 miles

This walk starts from the Yan resource centre and climbs out of the valley through the forest, past unusual sculptures and the odd Red Sandstone Fox. Continue along this path, following white waymarked posts to the tarn junction and the waters of the only natural tarn. As you descend back to the centre you will be rewarded with views of the west side of the forest and the ancient broadleaf trees that cling to the steep slopes.

Great Wood, Somerset
Red Walk
Distance: 2.5 miles

Spend an afternoon exploring the nooks and crannies of Ramscombe along the Red Walk Trail, which is ideal for those who enjoy a gentle stroll. This trail will lead you past pretty streams and along some impressive combes and you will see some majestic Douglas fir and Sitka spruce as well as ancient oak woodlands where autumn colours are at their best.

New Forest, Hampshire
Bolderwood Radnor Trail
Distance: 3 miles

Head along the Ornamental Drive and watch the deer from the viewing platform or follow the Radnor waymarked trail. Once past the Radnor stone the trail passes through a band of colour from the sweet chestnut, oak and beech dating from 1980. It then skirts the fenced boundary of Mark Ash Wood before leading you past the deer viewing platform where you can often see a herd of fallow deer.

Thetford Forest, Suffolk
Lynford Arboretum, Seasonal Trail
Distance: 2 miles

Noted for its peace, tranquillity and amazing colour show, Lynford Arboretum is a great place to enjoy an autumnal stroll. The seasonal trail will lead you through Sequoia Avenue, one of the special features of the area. The arboretum contains an eclectic collection of conifers, planted by forestry students in mid-Victorian parkland. The trail has seating areas at regular intervals where you can rest and bask in the glory of the magnificent autumn colour.

Simon Barnett is director of walking development at the Ramblers. For more information visit www.ramblers.org.uk

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