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I’m bursting with news this week, so read on and enjoy.

Longer walks and trips abroad

One of the most exciting things about Nordic walking for me is the way it has opened up endless possibilities – and reasons – for going out walking and exploring our countryside.  I would never have done this during my running days, nor indeed during my mountain biking days.  I can’t put my finger on exactly why.  All I know is that since discovering Nordic walking I’ve been super keen to walk all over the place!  I have the fitness and stamina for it too plus a hardy pair of poles to propel me uphill, on the flat and support me on the rougher ground and downhill. 

Through all this walking I’ve discovered some fabulous walks which I know you will love.  I’ve now loaded these onto our website, there are a dozen for you to choose from.  Some are old favourites, like the Priors Wood bluebell walk and the Sand Bay circular walk.  Others are new offerings – the magnificent Redwood tree walk for instance which is just a stone’s throw from Ashton Court, and a wonderfully interesting Portishead/Portbury Wharf loop which I’m really pleased to have discovered.  Don’t worry if you’re only used to the one hour walks on the Downs.  If you manage these with ease our 1.5 and 2 hour long walks should be perfectly achievable.  Why not try one and see – I bet you’ll surprise yourself.

If you’re reading this but don’t live close to Bristol, don’t worry – besides shorter walks we have 3 and 4 hour walks plus our first ever whole day walk.  I’ve named this one the Cheddar Gorge to Yeo Valley HQ spectacular because, well, it’s just that spectacular.  The Yeo Valley canteen alone is worth the trip out to the Mendips (it’s so popular that you have to book four weeks in advance) and the walk I’ve crafted round it takes us through areas of outstanding natural beauty.  It’s also a decent length, roughly 12 miles long.  All in all a pleasantly challenging day out with a yummy lunch in the middle.  Perfect to set you up for the weekend.

Further afield, there’s still one place left on our Spring Dartmoor trip and my Cotswold Way June weekend.  Contact us if you’re interested.  Our October Girona trip is now full but we will be running this again next year, and offering you a trip to Cornwall as well, organised for us by the dynamic Kelly Bennet of Walk Kernow.  We’ll have more details of both trips later in the year.

In the meantime I’m in Finland next week with several members of our club trying our hand at cross-country skiing.  I’ll let you know how we get on in next week’s blog.  One thing’s for certain: there’s never a dull Nordic walking moment with us!

Recent press reports about back health and vitamin D

In the last few weeks I’ve written about back health and posted a reminder about the importance of taking vitamin D.  Both have had press coverage recently which I thought sufficiently interesting to mention. 

Last Tuesday’s article in The Times by Peta Bee Meet the back mechanic – he can change your pain set out the opinions and advice of Stuart McGill, professor of spine mechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada.   Not only is he the author of more than 400 published clinical papers on spine health, he is also apparently widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on back health.  The article is an interesting read if you suffer from back problems (he’s not a universal fan of pilates and yoga for instance).  Of most relevance for us walkers is what he says about the importance of walking for back health.  “Regular walking is extremely and uniquely important for back health.” Says McGill.  “It should be a mandatory component of your pain-elimination programme.” 

However he’s not an advocate of slow walking: “Walking too slowly actually loads the spine and provides more crushing forces to it.  Moving more briskly can change walking from a cause of pain to a pain reliever.  According to McGill, the faster you walk and the more you swing your arms (with good posture) the better the outcome for your back.  Posture, brisk walking and an active arm swing.  Has McGill been reading a Nordic walking manual?

The press has also been full of the latest research concerning vitamin D.  After an analysis of twenty five separate trials, researchers at Queen Mary University of London concluded that taking vitamin D could spare more than three million people from colds or flu each year.  That’s more effective than the flu vaccine.  This prompted calls for vitamin D to be added to food, as is done in America, so that everyone gets enough.  However Public Health England (PHE) treated the news with caution saying there was still not enough evidence to enrich foods.  To re-cap:

  1. Vitamin D is essential for our bone, teeth and muscle health.  There is also a large body of evidence (as yet not supported by PHE) that vitamin D also boosts our immune system helping us fight colds and flu and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
  2. In the UK the sun isn’t strong enough between October and March for us to make vitamin D naturally through our skin.  This means we need to get it from either the food we eat or via supplements.
  3. The government’s guidance is that everyone needs about 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day to stay healthy.
  4. You would have to eat a salmon fillet a day or twelve egg yolks to get the recommended daily dose of vitamin D, so supplements are necessary for most of us.