Week two of our 21-day walking challenge is well under way. The first obstacle is showing up, so if you are getting out daily for some dedicated walking time, then you are already winning. This week we look at how to combat the biggest barriers to exercise, ways to challenge yourself, and some strength exercises to complement your daily walking plan.

Barriers to exercise

Consistency is key when it comes to exercise. It is important that you make exercise and your daily walk fit into your schedule so that you can begin to build this daily habit with ease.

One of the most common barriers to exercise that people report is time; being too busy to get out for a walk. Find a time that best suits you, before going to work, walk to work, lunch breaks, post work or with friends in the evening. Plan your schedule for the week in advance so that you carve out time to walk rather than leaving it to chance daily. There will always be more important things to do unless you prioritise your exercise time.

Walking is a simple non-impact form of exercise that is safe for everyone. Age and fitness are not a reasonable barrier to walking. It is about pitching the speed, route and walk time to your level. Start small with shorter achievable walks, but do them more often, maybe multiple walks per day and build from there.

Another common barrier patients often tell me is they are usually too tired, and can’t motivate themselves to exercise.

Walking provides the best of both worlds, both physical and mental benefits. Walking regularly has been shown to enhance mood and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Walking helps to boost blood flow to your brain and body.

This increase in circulation is proposed to affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the body’s response to stress.

This also has a positive effect on other parts of the brain including the limbic system, which controls motivation and the hippocampus, which plays a part in memory and mood.

Exercise has also been shown to have a positive impact on energy and stamina. So, when you don’t feel like getting out for your walk, rest assured that once you get moving, your body and brain will help motivate and energise you.

Tools to stay motivated

Tracking your walking is a great way to monitor your progress and can act as a great motivational tool as you see your step count or distance grow. Smart phones and watches have some great, easy-to-use free fitness health apps that help you track your daily activity.

I use the health app on my iPhone. It provides an easy to interpret step count with daily, weekly, and monthly retrospective comparisons. I can clearly see when I am smashing my walking goals or if I am slipping behind, a gentle reminder to up my steps and get more active.

Map My Walk is another great free activity tracker app available on IOS and Android devices. It records your walking route, time and distance and allows you to set weekly goals. It is very easy to use and provides easy to interpret charts and graphs to help you monitor and manage your walking goals.

Five easy exercises for walkers

Five quick exercises to complement your walking, ensuring your legs and core stay strong.

Wall Ball Squat

  • Place the ball between your back and the wall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Slowly bend your knees and roll down the ball as if you are sitting on a chair, keeping your knees in line with your toes.
  • Slowly return to the standing position by pushing through your heels to activate your gluteal buttock muscles.
  • Reverse lunge

  • Start in a lunge position. Step back behind yourself, bending your front knee, lowering your pelvis while keeping your shoulders over your hips.
  • Step forward bringing your back leg through and up into a bent knee position in front of you, standing on one leg.
  • Keep your support leg long and strong.
  • Make sure to keep your hips level and do not twist your body.
  • Side lying leg lifts

  • Lay on your side with your head supported and lower leg bent.
  • Lift the top leg up to about 30° in line with your hip, keeping the foot parallel to the ground and the hips stacked one on top of the other.
  • Do not let your pelvis or lower back rotate or move. The movement is coming solely from your hip, using your bottom muscles (glutes).
  • Heel and toe raises

  • First, stand on both feet with your hands on a chair or table for balance.
  • Raise on to the ball of your foot without bending the knees.
  • Lower your heels slowly with control.
  • Secondly, raise your toes off the ground keeping your heels down and knees straight. Repeat this.
  • Bird dog

  • On your hands and knees in a quadruped position, knees directly under your hips and hands directly under your shoulders.
  • Your back is in a neutral position, long neck looking towards the floor.
  • Lift one arm and the opposite leg without allowing the trunk or pelvis to move side to side or rotate.
  • Use your core and back muscles to keep your spine and torso from moving or arching.
  • You can simplify this by sliding your opposite arm and leg along the floor away from each other first, add in the leg/arm lift when you feel stronger.
  • Next week: Ways to progress your walking programme.


    Be in with a chance to win a luxurious break to Fota Island Resort in Cork by simply sending us a photo taking part in the challenge, with 200 words or less about your favourite walk submitted below.

    The winner will enjoy a two-night stay for two adults with breakfast each morning and dinner in The Amber Lounge on an evening of your choice at the resort, which is nestled at the heart of a peaceful island and just eight miles from the bustling city of Cork. Experience the great facilities onsite at Fota Island Resort, including many walking trails, an indoor swimming pool, the world-class Fota Island Spa, the exclusive Cove Restaurant, or enjoy tee time on the golf course. Discover all that the surrounding area has to offer with a visit to Fota Wildlife Park, Fota House and Gardens, the world-class English Market, Ballymaloe’s wonderful gardens and shops, the farmers market in Midleton, Ballycotton’s cliff walk and the beautiful blue flag beaches nearby. If you’re not lucky enough to win on this occasion, you can find out more about the autumn packages available at Fota Island Resort by visiting www.fotaisland.ie.

    T&Cs apply: Prize is 2BB1D for 2 x adults, subject to availability. Non-transferable and not valid for July & August, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, seasonal holidays or bank holiday weekends. Valid 12 months.