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How walking helped us through lockdown in Kent


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We all know Kent has some beautiful places to enjoy a walk, and exercising is of course vital for mental health and wellbeing.

One person who has reaped the benefits is Sam Lennon and here he tells us why walking has helped him and other people get fitter during the pandemic and how he himself has fallen in love with it.

Sam Lennon hillwalking on the Western Heights with the Folkestone Road and Elms Vale area below
Sam Lennon hillwalking on the Western Heights with the Folkestone Road and Elms Vale area below

Sam found one of the few forms of exercise left to do during lockdown was brisk walking, especially hillwalking.

Another man he spoke to was Patrick Verrill who has kept his mind and body healthy during the last year by marching for his mental health.

He said: "Physically since the lockdowns I’ve found that these sorts of walks are a fantastic way to burn off energy.

"I struggled with sleeping at the beginning so burning myself out with these sorts of walks helped.

"Also mentally they are excellent for confidence.

A couple out on a walk with their dog. Stock picture
A couple out on a walk with their dog. Stock picture

"Once you’ve seen the amount of miles you’ve walked it’s great."

Mr Verrill, 27, a father-of-two from Market Square, Dover, was working for Saga Holidays in Sandgate but was made redundant due to the impact of Covid-19. He quickly found new employment at Food Warehouse at St James' Retail and Leisure Park, also in the town.

The places he walks in Dover are the Western Heights, Samphire Hoe, Shakespeare Cliff, the Alkham Valley and the Connaught Park area.

I have discovered similar benefits to Mr Verrill.

I was furloughed for several months last year and used the free time for plenty of hillwalking. I had before that allowed it to slide away when I was letting work take over more of my life than needed.

Dover town centre valley from the Western Heights, taken by Sam while he was out hill walking
Dover town centre valley from the Western Heights, taken by Sam while he was out hill walking

The physical benefits were enormous as I went down from nearly 20st to just under 17st from March to June and by keeping it going my weight steadied and was under 16st by the autumn.

It was just in time as I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes that July and my blood sugar and salt in kidneys readings were off the scale.

The exercise, better diet, medication and less beer combined to bring the readings back to normal by November. The specialist nurse described my final results as "fab."

Mentally it kept me perked up during such a worrying and uncertain time caused by the pandemic and I burst with pride about the loss of weight.

You start climbing the hills with worries, stresses and irritations on your shoulders and when you climb back down after an hour they are dumped somewhere on the way back.

Sam also met some horses while walking in Elms Vale from Whinless Down
Sam also met some horses while walking in Elms Vale from Whinless Down

These hikes were further enjoyed by fabulous views, not just of the sea and cliffs but settlements such as Maxton, Elms Vale and St Radigunds from the inland valleys.

Danny Mouskovias, a wellbeing coach, has detailed the benefits of exercise such as walking.

He explained: "When you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious the quickest and easiest way to slow down your mind, is to speed up your heart rate.

"This can simply be done by taking a brisk walk to support both my mental and physical health."

Other benefits, he explains, include:

Danny Mouskovias, learning and development and wellbeing coach
Danny Mouskovias, learning and development and wellbeing coach

Boosting energy - If you are feeling tired, a brisk walk is a solution. Studies show walking can boost your energy levels immediately afterwards which will continue for the rest of the day. It's a quick way to feel more refreshed and energised.

Improving sleep - Studies show that people who were exposed to more light during daylight hours fell asleep quicker in the evening.

One reason for this is because being exposed to light helps regulate our circadian rhythm (our natural body clock) which means our hormone levels are at the right level to help us achieve a good night's sleep.

Increasing mindfulness - Going for a walk can help your mind find the space it needs to focus on the present moment and enter a more mindful state, which can really support you with anything else you have going on today.

Boosting your mood - Exercise in general will do this but getting outside and being around nature will give your mood that extra boost it needs and deserves.

There are some stunning places to walk in Kent like Samphire Hoe, in Dover
There are some stunning places to walk in Kent like Samphire Hoe, in Dover

Mr Mouskovias added: "Even knowing these benefits, taking that first step to a regular brisk walk is easier said than done.

"Your mind will always come up with obstacles to why you should just stay indoors, especially if you are suffering with a mental health condition.

"When you feel tired, depressed or stressed you may feel like any type of exercise may make you feel worse.

"The truth is that any type of physical activity including walking is a powerful re-energiser.

"Regular studies show that exercise can dramatically reduce fatigue and energy levels as well as slow down your thoughts and allow you to see more clearly."

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve in Sandwich is a great place to go for a walk
Gazen Salts Nature Reserve in Sandwich is a great place to go for a walk

Some of the best places to walk in Kent

Ashford

Conningbrook Lakes Country Park, Willesborough Road, Ashford

Hothfield Heathlands, Cades Road, Hothfield

Broadham Down, Chilham

Turners Field, Drury Road, Tenterden

Ashford Conningbrook Lakes Country Park. Picture: Paul Amos
Ashford Conningbrook Lakes Country Park. Picture: Paul Amos

Bexley

Ruxley Gravel Pits, south of the A223 near Sidcup

Bromley

Downe Bank, Hang Grove Hill, Downe

Hewlitt's Chalk Bank, near Knockholt, Orpington

Canterbury

Blean Wood National Nature Reserve

South Blean, Hatch Lane, Chartham Hatch

Dover

The White Cliffs of Dover is a great place to walk
The White Cliffs of Dover is a great place to walk

White Cliffs of Dover, Upper Road, Dover

Lydden and Temple Ewell National Nature Reserve, Canterbury Road, Temple Ewell

Folkestone and Hythe

Romney Marsh Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, Dymchurch Road, New Romney

The Warren, near Wear Bay Road, Folkestone,

Dungeness National Nature Reserve, Dungeness Road

Dungeness Nature Reserve. Picture: Delphine Houlton at Maxim PR
Dungeness Nature Reserve. Picture: Delphine Houlton at Maxim PR

Medway

Burham Down, Common Road, Chatham

Darland Banks, Darland Avenue, Gillingham

Nashenden Down, Borstal, Rochester

Maidstone

Kiln Wood, Lenham

The Larches, Detling

Westfield Wood, Lower Warren Road, Boxley

Moat Park, Maidstone. Picture: Steve Crispe
Moat Park, Maidstone. Picture: Steve Crispe

Moat Park, Mote Ave, Maidstone

Sevenoaks

Fackenden Down, Fackenden Lane, Shoreham,

Kemsing Down, Pilgrims Way, Kemsing

Swale

Cromers Wood, Milstead near Sittingbourne

Oare Marshes, Church Road, Oare, Faversham

Stockbury Hill Wood, Steppes Hill Road, Stockbury

Thanet

Northdown Park, Northdown, Margate

Pegwell Bay. Picture: Brian Whitehead
Pegwell Bay. Picture: Brian Whitehead

Pegwell Bay Country Park, Sandwich Rd, Cliffsend, Ramsgate

Tonbridge and Malling

Holborough Marshes, Church Field, Snodland

Tunbridge Wells

Parsonage Wood, Benenden

Marden Meadow, Marden Road Cranbrook

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