I SPEND a lot of my life sitting down.
It isn’t out of laziness, it’s out of necessity as I don’t work on my feet.
It was therefore highly disturbing this week to learn through MacMillan Cancer Care and the Ramblers Association that there are almost 37,000 premature deaths in England each year linked to lack of exercise.
Wales, of course, is not immune from the rise in obesity and the modern move toward sedentary jobs.
According to a study released by the two charities this week, inactivity poses an “international epidemic” responsible for 17 per cent of early deaths in the UK.
It is linked to heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes among other issues.
Epidemiologist I-Min Lee said: “Physical inactivity has an impact on health comparable to smoking.”
The UK Chief Medical Officers have long said that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week but the MacMillan study pointed out that one-in-three people don’t even manage 30 minutes a week.
I spoke to two members of the Ramblers Association about how we can get moving.
To be fair, David Jones, 69, of Hawarden, chairman of the Deeside Ramblers Walking Group, and Hugh Williams, 65, of Ewloe Green, both have sporting histories so they have a bit of a head start.
Even so, they say, there are ways and means of easing your way in, and walking, they say, is a very good place to start.
Hugh, who leads walks for the group, has been blazing a trail across North Wales for seven years.
He said: “I came to it because my wife started going out with the ramblers when I was out playing sport.
"I decided that I was a little old, in my 60s, to be running round a hockey field, although not everyone will feel that way, so I came along.
“The main reason I walk is for my health. You do need to keep fit and walking is something pretty much everybody can do.”
Hugh is not exaggerating.
He recently had a hip operation and is battling cancer but he still makes a point of getting up and down those hills.
He said: “I’ve had health problems. I had a hip revision (an adjustment of a hip replacement) but, thanks to a number of things, including my keeping active, it was one of the fastest turn-overs they’ve had.
“I was up the Yorkshire Peaks within three weeks of that. The walking keeps me going.”
Hugh has links with both MacMillan Cancer Care and the Ramblers.
He said: “I’ve been involved with MacMillan on a private basis as I have cancer and I’ve been fundraising. About six years ago, I was with a team who did the three peaks challenge in 24 hours. We raised about £5,000 for MacMillan.”
Walking, according to Hugh, is a self-fulfilling process. It maintains fitness, so you can walk further, which in turn means you get fitter.
He said: “It’s also a social experience and you get to see some beautiful landscapes. It’s a lovely sport – it keeps you going.
“I’m more interested in the longer walks. The club does 12 miles to 14 miles, that sort of distance.
“But we do shorter walks of five to six miles too, which are almost specifically for health.”
David Jones joked he’d been rambling since he could walk but he started getting seriously involved aged 36.
A 12-mile hike will be child’s play to someone who has been hillwalking for decades but five to six miles will sound daunting to anyone who finds it difficult to stretch to 30 minutes a week.
That’s where community walks come in.
David said: “I’ve been involved in community walks for some time.
“They are shorter walks for people who aren’t as used to it. People can join in gentle walks and then build themselves up.
“Then they can join the Ramblers once they want to do something longer.
“The Ramblers guide walks are every other week, which doesn’t quite fit with the 150-minutes-a-week guideline, but you find that people start taking short walks on their own to top up.”
There’s no need to book to get involved with a community walk and there are plenty to choose from.
David said: “Just turn up on Friday mornings at 9.45am at the Hawarden Institute or on the first Friday of the month at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Ewloe.
“You don’t need equipment, it costs nothing at all. You just fill a form in and off you go.”
Rhian Waller is taking it step by step: I do like walking. There’s nothing quite like reaching the top of a hill and looking back at how far you’ve travelled.
I work nine-and-a-half hour days at the Leader office, volunteer at Mind charity in Mold and have a second job teaching at a campus in Rhos-on-Sea, which means I spend hours prepping lessons, commuting and sitting in classrooms.
This doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for exercise, and I miss it.
I find the best way to stay reasonably active is to incorporate exercise into my day.
It’s a 25-minute walk to the Leader office. If I leave my car at home, I’ll pass that 150-minute mark in three days.
Leader readers shared their tips.
Kevin Griffiths-Boden of Wrexham said: “I cycle to work every day. It’s six and a half miles each way."
Geraint Lloyd, 73, of Buckley, said: “I exercised for more than five hours a week for 40 years and still got cancer.
“But to those who do little exercise, I’d still recommend it. If only to ‘enjoy’ your illness being fit instead of lethargic.”
Mark Creegan, 41, of Wrexham, who studied fitness at a London institute, said: “Things that can help are walking to one further bus stop than you usually use or get off one stop before your destination. Walking to shops instead of driving.
“These small steps will help before taking up a more physical exercise programme.”
Katy Green, 28, of Saltney, said the footsteps would mount up: “Just walking to the supermarket instead of driving, walk to the school don’t drive, walk around in your garden, tidying up, cleaning your house.
“It s not difficult to walk a little bit each day or even just most days.”