Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. Sometimes overlooked as a form of exercise, walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier.

A great way to start walking, is to join one of the free “health walks” going on in the lovely Green Havens area.  Don’t be put off by the “health” name (they could also be called social walks!) There are walks of different difficulty levels, and lengths but all of them are designed so that you can discover our fantastic green spaces and enjoy having a chat to people, while improving your general health in an enjoyable way.

Greenhavens went along to a health walk in Seaford to find out more.

Seaford Health walks now run every Tuesday, some starting at the cafe by the Salts, and the others at the cafe by the Martello Tower. The walk lasts around an hour and takes various routes around the town, with at least two volunteer walk leaders. The walk today took us up little woodland paths and interesting twittens and alleyways that I certainly hadn’t been up before! Afterwards most people stopped for a drink in the cafe too.

We asked Audrey (who was on her first health walk) what she thought of the walk today.

“As someone who is new to Seaford, I found it was an easy way of getting to know people and getting to know the area. I like walking and it’s a great way of getting some fresh air and exercise. I had been used to walking on my own, when my friends weren’t able to walk any more. It’s nice that it’s every week, and I would definitely make the effort to come along again.”

We asked a local retired GP Dr Ronald White his thoughts about prescribing “green spaces”.

“Two of the main benefits of using green spaces is firstly getting people to do more exercise and secondly improved socialisation. According to the world health organization social isolation kills as many people as cigarettes world wide.

According to academy of medical colleges 2015 report exercise is the new “superdrug”, reducing type 2 diabetes ,some cancers, depression and chronic pain by 30%.

There is lots that we don’t know but we do know we should be enabling everybody (especially the most vulnerable as they pay the highest health risk) to access free resources to help get healthier.

As a GP of more than 27 years I noticed that a disproportionate number of patients were obese and lonely. Most importantly when they became more active , lost weight and had more social contacts, I saw less of them.

Therefore I would happily recommend health walks along the coast or downs on our fantastic network of rights of way locally. I have recently retired and have doubled my step count. My next step is get back on a bike again. I love catching up with friends walking over the downs most weeks — and I walk further with friends than I would on my own.

Greenhavens offers so much to do, there are numerous small local friendly groups that are running healthy activities such as park runs, rambling, running and cycling. Have a look at the Greenhavens Network events calendar which lists all the local groups and their events that are taking place in your local area. There is something for everyone, from beginners to advanced.

There are four walking to health schemes running throughout the Greenhavens: TCV (Seaford only), Sussex Community Development Association (SCDA) and Wave Leisure have been running walks for many years.  All of them deliver the national “Walking for Health” programme administered by the Ramblers and funded by East Sussex County Council. These are all well planned successful health walks.  The South Downs National Park, partnering with Wave Leisure this year took health walks one step further by taking walkers right onto the beautiful South Downs to start their health walks.

If you love walking and have a few hours a month to spare, perhaps you would like to become a volunteer health walk leader? All the schemes provide full training and support.

Do support your local health walks, or recommend them to people you know who would benefit from some gentle exercise in a friendly and supportive environment.  All details can be found on the community page of the Greenhavens Website.