Walk this way and improve your health!

Officials behind the drive to make Suffolk the healthiest county in England by 2028 have issued a rally cry to encourage everyone to walk their way to better health this autumn.

The call comes as the innovative project steps up its efforts to help people living and working in the county to embrace healthier lifestyles and reverse trends which currently show that more than half of all adults will be obese by 2050.

Now everyone in the county, regardless of their age or fitness level, is being invited to step out, socialise, enjoy their surroundings and get more active by taking part in specially organised health walks during the summer and autumn months.

Taking place across the county, the free walks take place alongside trained leaders and graded according to their difficulty. Called “Stepping out in Suffolk”, they are organised by Suffolk Coastal District Council in partnership with Healthy Ambitions Suffolk.

All last between thirty and ninety minutes and cover some of the county’s most picturesque areas, such as the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe Promenade, Westleton Common, Walberswick, Ipswich’s Bridge Wood and Ickworth Park in Horringer.

Dr Peter Bradley, director of public health for NHS Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, said: “Current statistics show that 55% of men and 42% of women are classed as overweight or obese. In addition to that, less than half of Suffolk’s adults take the recommended amount of physically activity per week, while just 40% eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

“If these current trends continue, estimates show that 60% of men, half of all women and a quarter of all children in the county could be obese by 2050.

“But the Healthy Ambitions Suffolk project is all about showing people that making small changes can have a massive impact on overall health – and it is never too late to start. This is where the health walks, organised in partnership with Suffolk Coastal District Council, come in.

“Walking is the ideal exercise for so many different reasons. Not only is it free, but it’s an easy way to increase your levels of activity and absolutely anyone can do it – regardless of their level of fitness.

“It’s also the perfect excuse to get out and about and enjoy some of Suffolk’s beautiful countryside and coastlines which, in turn, can have a positive effect on mental health.

“Health walks are especially beneficial for people recovering from illness or who need to improve their exercise levels. You can take it at your own pace and families, dogs, buggies and wheelchairs are all welcome.

“So why not make taking part in one of these specially tailored walks your own Healthy Ambitions Suffolk pledge?”

Olive Quinton, health improvement manager with Suffolk Coastal District Council, said: “The Stepping out in Suffolk walks are perfect for anyone who has not been active for a long time or who is recovering from illness or surgery. They’re also hugely popular with single ladies who may not want to go out walking alone.

“They are an ideal way to build confidence and increase your activity levels gradually, and also provide the opportunity to socialise and meet new friends. Anyone who takes part can go at their own pace, while our specially trained walk leaders are also there to offer help and support.”

Cllr Rosie Clarke, portfolio holder with responsibility for health and wellbeing with Suffolk County Council, said: “These health walks provide the perfect opportunity for everyone in the county to increase their levels of activity and boost their health while also enjoying the beauty of some of Suffolk’s most cherished landscapes at the same time.”

For a full list of walks taking place across the county, visit
and click on “programme of all walks July to September 2009”

Anyone who is interested in receiving free training to become a walk leader can contact the Health Walks Team at Suffolk Coastal District Council on 01394 444 501 or email [email protected]