Celebrity Health - Julia Bradbury

Image of Julia Bradbury © Julia Bradbury/The Outdoor Guide

TV presenter Julia Bradbury talks to Your Healthy Living about her passion for walking and the outdoor life

Q You are a well-known advocate for the outdoor lifestyle. Would you say that spending time in the outdoors can be beneficial to our health and wellbeing?

Julia: I don’t say it – it’s proven by research done all over the world! Spending just 120 minutes outdoors every week can improve your health and wellbeing. A study led by the University of Exeter Medical School found that out of 20,000 people, those that spent just two hours a week in nature showed noticeable health benefits – mental and physical. And you don’t have to live somewhere especially green, or on the brink of a great outdoor space; the important thing is making the time to get to your park, taking a walk at lunchtime or heading somewhere green for a weekend excursion. The study showed that it didn’t matter whether you did the time in one chunk, or smaller increments; it was the accrued time of 120 minutes a week that proved to be the magic number. It’s about fitting it in to your lifestyle and making it happen.

Q Do you think that time spent in nature can have a positive effect on our mental health as well as our physical health?

Julia: Through the mental health charity MQ, and the Mountains for the Mind initiative, I’ve discovered a great deal about the positive impacts of nature on our mental and emotional states. Other research has found that spending time outdoors can reduce the risk of depression by 30 per cent and that a single exposure to nature can lift your mood for up to seven hours. In our busy lives, it’s often hard to make time for ourselves but there’s a great healing power in the outdoors and you don’t have to climb mountains to enjoy the benefits. A stroll in a city park can be just as re-energising.

Q Have you always had a love of the great outdoors?

Julia: The seeds for my passion for walking and life outdoors were planted early when I was a young girl, with my dad Michael in the Peak District. Come rain or shine, I loved the landscapes we explored together and the sheer joy of striding out in the fresh air with my dad. It was valuable father/daughter bonding time. Dales and moors offered such a variety of scenery that I always wanted to explore what was around the corner or over the hill. I guess that’s also where my love of travel comes from! But I think the hours I spent pottering around in the garden as a little one with my mum were equally important when it came to building my connection with nature.

Q Tell us about your website, The Outdoor Guide.

Julia: When my sister Gina and I launched The Outdoor Guide as a unique online resource, we had a straightforward mission: “The Outdoor Guide believes passionately in the value of enjoying a healthy life outdoors and aims to support those with and without the ability or opportunity to access and share the benefit of our great outdoors.”

That has guided us and the team over the years to deliver information, advice and curated walks, in partnership with Ordnance Survey maps, with free access for everybody. We work with the UK’s National Parks, National Trust, Ordnance Survey and voluntary bodies to actively promote how being outdoors can be a natural prescription to help deal with the stresses of modern life.

Q The Outdoor Guide seems to be a great resource for finding walking routes. What are some of your own favourite walks?

Julia: The other spark that led us to starting the website was the endless stream of letters that flow in about my TV walks. They’re still coming! You can download all the walks you’ve seen me do on the telly for free (using Ordnance Survey/OS map technology). The lovely thing about the walks from a telly point of view is that they are “evergreen” – they don’t really age, so the channel keeps repeating them; sometimes we don’t even know when they’re going to run. Everyone was a bit surprised when an old Britain’s Best Walks popped up before The Brits this year. I definitely had a younger demographic emailing me! During my latest TV series, The Greek Islands with Julia Bradbury, I was happy we were able to fit in some walk ideas too. They’re such lovely islands to explore on foot – a real treat!

Q You obviously lead a very active, busy life. Do you try to eat healthily to maintain good health and energy levels?

Julia: I love food and I just try to eat a healthy, balanced diet – mixing up the food groups, eating a rainbow of vegetables, trying to pack in enough fibre. I’ve learned a lot about diet over the last few years and I’m reading up on microbiome health and gut health, which is incredibly important. I also have a young family to teach and I’m aware that the food habits they get into now will last for life. I have a real weakness for chocolate but I’ve switched to dark (minty) chocolate now which is a breakthrough for me! It drives me insane that they constantly advertise sugary cereals for kids as a good way to start the day – they even try to palm off chocolate spread as a breakfast idea. Nuts. Literally.

Q Do you have any favourite healthy snacks that you like to take on a long hike?

Julia: I like popcorn, Frusli bars, bananas and roasted peas. A tub of hummus or tzatziki to dip seeded crackers into with an apple is a good snack. I eat oven popped crisps (not fried). I am always starving at the end of a hike so a good local pub at the end of the route is a treat.

Q Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to tell us about?

Julia: We’re busy planning the next TV series but it’s top secret so I can’t tell you where. I’m always busy in my role as Ambassador for Keep Britain Tidy, working on sustainability/plastic pollution campaigns. Food waste is the next target; we waste 30 per cent of food globally and it’s one of the biggest contributions to greenhouse gases in the world because rotting degrading food in landfill releases lots of methane. As President of The Camping and Caravanning Club, we’re plotting our next outdoor adventure to inspire people to get outdoors more – in May this year we’re planning a big camp out to launch National Camping and Caravanning Week. One year I even camped on the roof of the O2! This year, the theme of the week, at the end of May, is “new to camping” and The Outdoor Guide and CCC websites will have full details of how to get involved.

For more information on The Outdoor Guide, visit theoutdoorguide.co.uk

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