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New Life, New Season – the Opportunities of Spring 

I recently talked about some of the hobbies that can be enjoyed by the older man. One of those hobbies was walking – and as Easter comes and goes with its annual promise of new life I’ve been reminded to get my own walking boots out again and head into the hills.

Of course you don’t have to live somewhere rural to enjoy walking. Nor does the exercise have to be particularly gruelling. Plenty of urban based walking clubs travel to neighbouring wood and farmland for their weekly or monthly outings. And walking in cities can be as rewarding in its own way as walking in the countryside.

A recent BBC Horizon programme extolled the virtue of non-traditional exercise. That’s the kind of stuff you do daily: walking, picking things up, cooking. According to hyper-enthusiastic doctor James Levine this “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”, or NEAT – or, to you and me, a constitutional – is actually better for you than running or joining the gym.

When you move gently and for decent periods of time, your body produces a protein called lipase, which effectively sucks the fat out of your blood and turns it into energy. This is crucial for the removal of the most dangerous type of fat – not subcutaneous (under the skin) but around the organs.

While subcutaneous fat may give us body image problems, it is (in an active individual) relatively harmless. It’s the stuff around your heart and other vital organs that can really damage you. Gentle regular walking plus plenty of extended periods of not sitting down are advised to keep fat out of your blood, raise your aerobic capabilities and help your metabolism out too.

So as the weather gets better, and the days get longer, it’s time to start thinking about walking for pleasure again. Even if the activity alone doesn’t appeal, you can make space for it in your day. Walk to the shops rather than driving. Pick a newsagent on the other side of town and go there every morning to get your newspaper. Or find a hobby in which walking is incorporated, like bird watching or amateur archaeology.

Another excellent keep fit activity – and great for rainy spring days when you don’t want to be out walking – is swimming, or an aquarobics class if you don’t fancy the idea of doing lengths.

Any form of movement in water is great for maintaining the “don’t sit down, plenty of gentle movement” philosophy. The water supports your body and limbs, which takes the strain off joints and single muscle groups.

An aquacise or aquarobics class uses the resistance of water to help gently condition your limbs and core: keeping muscles soft and supple and strengthening weaker areas without the dangers of impact. Even just walking in a swimming pool is excellent exercise, supportive and relaxing.

It’s a great time of year to start getting out and about more. You’ll find aquatic exercise classes at any public swimming pool, and there are plenty of walking and hiking groups out there. For more information have a look at health, exercise, wellbeing and hobby topics on