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Article: 7 Benefits of Walking Outdoors with Your Kids

7 Benefits of Walking Outdoors with Your Kids

Spending quality time outside as a family can be difficult when there’s so much going on in our world but we’ve discovered the benefits of walking and are determined to make it part of our daily routine. Getting the kids walking can be tricky so our travel expert, Cathy Toogood, is on hand to share the benefits of walking daily. Our expert Cathy Toogood is a Manchester-based journalist, specialising in travel. Writing regularly for national newspapers, travel trade magazines and online publications including The Telegraph, The Independent, Forbes Advisor UK and Travel Weekly.

Cathy Toogood

As a proud Mancunian, Cathy specialises in writing about the city she grew up in and still calls home. Regularly reviewing the city’s best hotels, restaurants and attractions for Telegraph Travel as its Manchester expert. Cathy also writes about the city for various other publications. With two young children, Cathy writes frequently about family travel. Aiming to give readers the courage to plan more adventurous holidays with their kids through articles, including first-hand accounts of Cathy’s own experiences (and mistakes). Let’s jump right in and discover Cathy’s 7 benefits of walking with the kids. "Persuading the kids to leave the house to go on a walk can sometimes feel like hard work. But there are so many benefits of walking as a family that regularly taking the time to get outdoors with your troop should be a priority. From improving everyone’s health and mental wellbeing to giving you valuable quality time together, here are seven reasons why walking outdoors with your kids is so good for you all - plus some top tips on making your strolls fun.

1. Walking is great exercise

According to the NHS, “Exercise is the miracle cure we've always had, but for too long we've neglected to take our recommended dose.” And walking is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise to take part in as a family. Walking can help to strengthen children’s muscles and bones, with the muscles used while walking including those in your glutes, thighs and calves, as well as your abdominal muscles. And going for a daily stroll has lots of other health benefits too as it can help all of the family to maintain a healthy weight plus reduces the risks of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Top tip: Sneak even more exercise into a family walk by heading to a great tree climbing spot, your kids’ favourite play area or taking a football with you. And up the pace every so often by challenging little ones to a race.

Family walking in the woods Image credit: Anna Hardy

2. Walking outdoors is free and flexible

The cost of sport and exercise classes for the kids, from swimming to gymnastics, can quickly add up but a walk from your front door doesn’t cost a thing and can be done at any point to fit in with your day. And interesting walks don’t need to involve rolling fields or scaling a mountain - urban walks can be just as fulfilling. Think differently about a city stroll and plan your walk around local street art, research some local history then go on a fact-finding mission, or take a camera and encourage the kids to photograph interesting local details. Top tip: Not only is walking free, but one of the big advantages of walking is that you’re not restricted to opening hours. So, make your family walks exciting by varying the times you go - think a spooky night walk with torches followed by a hot chocolate, or a walk to watch the sunrise with a breakfast picnic.

3. Walking improves your mood

When you exercise, your body produces feel-good endorphins, so as well as keeping the whole family physically fit, walking regularly helps to improve everyone’s mental wellbeing too. According to the mental health charity Mind, exercising outdoors has lots of positive effects including improving your mood, reducing feelings of stress or anger, and boosting your confidence and self-esteem. Think about this the next time the kids start to get fractious in the house or you feel frustrated, and head out on a mood-boosting wander. Top tip: Walking is beneficial year-round so invest in some waterproof outerwear and wellies for all of the family to prevent the wet weather putting you off. With the right gear, children will see puddles and mud as natural play areas, and you can relax while they run wild.

4. Walking can help you all sleep better

Many parents become slightly obsessed with sleep, how to get more of it, and how to help their children drop off quicker in the evening. The good news is that, according to the Sleep Foundation, aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is one of the best types of exercise to promote higher-quality sleep. So, try to build walks into your daily routine and promote more restful nights for the entire household. Top tip: Do the kids need encouragement to walk daily? Add some variety to your jaunts by taking an outdoor toy such as a stomp rocket, a kite or a frisbee to an open area nearby.

5. Walking outdoors can encourage children to appreciate nature

The National Trust recently published research showing that children were more likely to report feeling happy if they had a higher level of connection to nature. It also found that people who made small everyday connections with nature, such as smelling wildflowers, were more likely to take actions to protect it. So, encourage your kids to pay attention to the natural world around you while you’re out and about, whether it’s listening to birds, spotting flowers or looking up at the shapes of the clouds. Top tip: Make spotting nature fun by creating a scavenger hunt of seasonal objects to find or by collecting natural treasures to turn into art when you get home. We've got another handy blog post with scavenger hunt ideas for kids.

6. Walking gives you uninterrupted family time

With no screens or distractions from school or work, walking with the kids is a great opportunity to spend some quality time together. Structure your walks around what makes you all smile, whether that’s making up stories as you stroll, spotting interesting vehicles, seeking out a great den building spot, bug hunting, jumping in the muddiest puddles in the park, or packing a picnic and wandering until you find the perfect spot to eat. Top tip: Avoid complaints about tired legs on longer walks by distracting younger children with games. I-spy, guess the animal and tag are all winners.
Family selfie while on a walk A Toogood family selfie

7. Walking offers a chance for you all to learn something new

Mix up walks and use them as an opportunity to teach the kids a new skill or to see their local area as a tourist would. Challenge older kids to plan a walk using a map, researching interesting local sights to visit, and teach younger kids about the world around them as you stroll. Got a canal nearby? Download one of the Canal & River Trust’s family guides to learn about the wildlife, how locks work and more. Live in the countryside? Keep your eyes peeled for animals’ homes and burrows, create a list of the birds you spot or go foraging for berries. Top tip: Solve clues as a family while learning more about your local area on a self-guided themed walk by Treasure Trails. Once you’ve completed a trail, you can enter its monthly draw to win £100. So, now you officially know why walks cheer the whole brood up and why nature walks can be so beneficial. We hope our tips have inspired you to add some sparkle to your strolls."

We hope Cathy’s 7 benefits of walking has inspired you to get the family outside and be in nature. Discover our range of stylish and practical kids’ outerwear including raincoats and wellies for any season. To find out more about Grass & Air, get in touch with one of our friendly team members today.

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