Sheffield expert hails benefits of just going for a walk

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
You have got to be fit to be ill - this is one of Prof Steve Haake’s findings from years of sports science research.

“If you’re already fit and you have to go into hospital, you have a much better chance of coming out of that hospital,” he says, “in any case, and with any condition.”

And Prof Haake’s recent research shows that useful fitness exercise might just be a 10-minute walk every day.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He says: “That government advice to go outside and do some exercise has now taken centre stage, and people are now saying, yes exercise really is a miracle cure.” Exercise boosts your immune system and your cardiovascular function, he says. “So with Covid-19, which affects your respiratory system, having a good cardiovascular function, which is good heart and good lungs, is really really important.”

Runners in Totley in 2018Runners in Totley in 2018
Runners in Totley in 2018 | Other 3rd Party

Prof Haake runs, walks and rides a bike – and an e-bike - and believes people are getting the exercise message. “Yesterday when I was out on my bike I saw very few cars,” he says, “but I saw hundreds of walkers, 55 cyclists, 36 runners, two kids on scooters and one on roller blades, and that was in less than an hour.” All of this is a good sign, he believes, as long as you take the precautions of only exercising on your own or with fellow householders, and keeping at least two metres away from everyone else.

And at the moment, he says, bear in mind that green Sheffield is absolutely beautiful.His research into parkrunning last year found that a third of people generally feel minor or moderate levels of anxiety.

He says: “That is really enhanced right now. Too much stress for too long is not good for you or your immunity.” And that is another reason the government says you can go outside for exercise once a day.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“From a mental health point of view, we know it’s really important to get outside and see some greenery and distance away from the four walls,” says the Sheffield Hallam University professor of sports engineering.

Steve Haake cycling above Lodge MoorSteve Haake cycling above Lodge Moor
Steve Haake cycling above Lodge Moor | Other 3rd Party

Earlier this month a cover article he wrote for the international New Scientist magazine pointed out another benefit of taking up simple exercise such as walking.

“Even a small amount of exercise brings significant health gains,” he wrote.

The article compared running with walking and found brisk walking gave very similar health benefits to slower running, but just took longer.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Going from nothing to something can really really reduce your risk from all sorts of conditions,’ he says.

Steve Haake walking in the Porter ValleySteve Haake walking in the Porter Valley
Steve Haake walking in the Porter Valley | Other 3rd Party

“If you’re sedentary now, if you just start doing 10minutes or so of exercise a day, we know that you’ll be reducing your risk of death from any condition by 10 per cent.”

A founding director of Sheffield’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, Prof Haake also chairs the international Parkrun research board and Sheffield City Region’s active travel advisory board.

The research he gathered into walking shows that running for about 25 minutes or walking for an hour-and-a-half both decrease your risk of dying from a variety of conditions by more than 30 per cent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He say: “The main difference is that walking takes more time, but If there's one thing we'll have in the coming weeks, it's time.”

Steve Haake in the Porter ValleySteve Haake in the Porter Valley
Steve Haake in the Porter Valley | Other 3rd Party

Like many, the professor says we need to think about how we face the world’s problems after the worst effects of Covid-19 can be avoided or treated, and it becomes just another condition circling the world.

“We could come out of it business as usual, which I think would be the worst possible thing,” he says.

He believes we need some changes if we want to come out of the pandemic doing business better than we have done up to now.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Prof Haake says: “Do I really need to take a week to fly to Brazil for that meeting, when an online conference is actually really easy and takes maybe an hour?

“And do we want to start thinking about active neighbourhoods where people can get outside on quiet streets and meet their neighbours?

“Wouldn’t it be a terrible world if we just revert back to sitting in a metal box and driving two miles to work again?

“I’d hope that people will say to themselves, do you know what, I can walk two miles. It’s not that hard.”