Rambling – what exactly does it mean?
Well, many definitions exist including “lengthy and confused or inconsequential” (Oxford Dictionary) – a connotation that all too readily springs to mind as we get older!
For the purposes of this article, however, we are looking at rambling to get fitter so we will stick exclusively with the definition “the activity of going for long walks in the countryside” and we will do our utmost to extol its benefits without “rambling” too much in the process!
(we promise there’ll be no more rambling puns going forward either).
What’s the Difference between Rambling and Walking?
Hiking, walking, trekking, rambling – it does get a bit confusing doesn’t it?
Rambling is a term used predominantly in the UK. Historically it was more associated with walking in the countryside, but recently, this has expanded to include walking more generally.
So really, there isn’t any significant difference between rambling or walking – rambling tends to be more organised and official. For example, you may join a Rambler’s group and go on a “ramble” on a specific day.
Depending on who you talk to though, rambling, walking, and hiking can often be inter-changeable.
Benefits of Rambling and Long Distance Walking
Rambling is a fantastic activity for anyone, of any age. We’ve highlighted just a few of the benefits you’ll gain by embracing rambling and the rambler’s code, including:
1. Improve Basic Fitness Levels
Rambling is a great activity to increase basic fitness levels. It is also one of the simplest, most accessible forms of exercise there is. You can do it almost anywhere, even from your doorstep and don’t need to be super-fit or have any experience to start.
Towns and cities offer public parks, traffic-free pedestrian routes, riverside paths and canal towpaths. A bit further afield, you’ll find woodlands, heaths, commons and nature reserves. And then of course there is the wonderful open countryside of Great Britain with its lakes, mountains and stunning coastlines.
All you need to get started is motivation, an enthusiasm to explore the great outdoors and a reasonable sense of direction!
2. No Specialist Equipment Needed
With rambling as straight-forward as it is, there is no pre-requisite for specialist equipment – unless of course, you are envisaging going off on more demanding walks. All you need is a tough and comfortable pair of shoes or trainers and ordinary, lightweight clothing that lends itself to layering.
With the unpredictability of the British weather, it always wise to pack a lightweight waterproof in your bag – and also a sunblock and hat just in case the sun breaks through. With a small rucksack, water for hydration and basic supplies for on route, you’re sorted and ready for the off.
It’s that easy!
3. Moderate Intensity Activity
Rambling easily enables you to achieve the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week in order to look after your heart. It also significantly decreases your risk of a heart attack.
In fact, less than 30 minutes per day has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease in women by 30 – 40% according to the Nurses’ Health Study, a 20 year health study of over 72, 000 female nurses.
The physical activity involved in walking boosts good cholesterol in the blood, reducing the amount of low density lipoproteins which contribute to plaque deposits in the arteries – a major cause of heart attacks.
4. Cardio Fitness
Physical exercise of any kind strengthens your heart muscle enabling it to pump more blood with less effort, exerting less pressure on the arteries as it journeys through the body.
This in turn keeps blood pressure down whilst at the same time enabling you to stay fit and improving your general fitness levels. With high blood pressure a major contributory factor to the risk of stroke, rambling is a sure and pleasurable way to reduce this risk.
Research published by Harvard Medical School (March 2014) evidences that the more hours per week men walked, even at a relaxed pace, the lower their risk of stroke became, reducing that risk by 50% in some cases. The study cites: “Exercise is like a medicine in many ways”.
If you could package the benefits to be derived from physical activities such as rambling in a pill, it would undoubtedly swiftly become one of the most popular prescriptions across the world!
5. Brain Power
Being active and outdoors in the fresh air not only improves fitness levels and reduces the risk of cardio-vascular disease and stroke, it also improves the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain, boosting the brain’s health and cognitive functioning at time when older individuals may be beginning to demonstrate symptoms of cognitive decline.
Physical activity has also been proven to be helpful in terms of preventing dementia, and is where rambling, with support, is a great activity for people in the early stages of dementia.
Additionally, feel-good endorphins released by this type of exercise, can be hugely significant in terms of lifting mood and improving general mental health and wellbeing, helping you feel much better all round.
Rambling is fun! It’s a great way to get out and explore new territory and a wonderful way to socialise with friends whilst being active at the same time.
With rambling such a popular pastime in the UK and so many rambling clubs out there, rambling provides excellent opportunities to branch out, meet new people and make new friends. Rambling clubs offer all kinds of social events including rambling weekends and rambling holidays both here and abroad.
What’s more, when you’re out with others, you’ll probably push yourself more than when you are walking alone, enhancing your general fitness levels even more in the process.
7. Keep Active
A sedentary, inactive life style is the greatest contributory factor to the growth of obesity in the UK. Taking up rambling as a hobby is a sure way to break this pattern, getting you and about and active once more.
Start slowly: 10 minutes per day is better than 0 minutes per day. Before you know it, your stamina will increase and you’ll feel able to walk further and at a brisker pace burning off more calories in the process. Reducing your weight can also help in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s all a bit of a no-brainer really.
Rambling Clubs & Walking Groups Near Me
There are plenty of rambling clubs and walking groups around the UK. The Rambler’s Association has a group finder page so you can type in your postcode to find all the groups near you.
With so many benefits to be accrued from physical activity, its propensity to prevent depression, elevate mood, reduce the risk of stroke and cardio-vascular disease, relieve arthritis and back pain, strengthen muscles and joints, lower stress levels, reduce weight and improve sleep patterns, rambling has got to top the list in terms of getting yourself fit.
It requires no prescription, has minimal side effects, is healthy, accessible, enjoyable, cheap and safe. For walks in your area, ask at your local library or tourist information office.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, explore the Ramblers’ Association’s series of regional guides and explore its website for longer distance walks.
Above all else, get going, get out there, get rambling and get fit!