While it’s impossible for any one exercise to transform your life, walking comes pretty darn close, as these three women found out…

Intro: During lockdown we saw two types of walkers emerge from their homes. Some of us discovered the wonders of walking for the first time, and others were walking more than they had pre-Covid. Whichever type you identify with, one thing is for certain: we, as a nation, moved more than ever this year. To find out the motivations behind getting outdoors and increasing our step counts, we spoke to three women who live in different parts of the country, about how they found magic in movement.

…“I walked so much that I wore two pairs of trainers out!”

Vicky Malmsjo, 37, open water swimming coach

“I didn’t walk anywhere before lockdown, but from day one of isolation I challenged myself to walk 26.2 miles. With the help of the NHS recommended fitness app, Her Spirit, I increased my walking distance every day from 10k up to 26.2 miles. I walked so much that I wore two pairs of trainers out! My biggest barrier was being diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, a condition that happens when one or more of the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column deteriorates or breaks down. Thankfully, swimming helped to improve my core strength, flexibility, and supported my spine. I feel energised after I’ve been on a walk and I want to keep it up. I’m enjoying being on dry land for a change (I work as an open water swimming coach) and getting to see the changing seasons is fantastic. Walking is something everyone can do. You don’t have to go far; just leave the car at home and walk to the shops. Get outside and I’ll guarantee you’ll enjoy it.”

...“The difference walking has made to my legs is incredible.”

Chloe Slasberg, 40, ambassador for the British Lung Foundation

“I do a lot of stretching and have done for many years, but the physical act of walking is different. Doing it regularly helped strengthen my joints and my bones and while it took me a while to build up the amount of time I could walk for, the benefits were obvious once I’d started. I’ve got a number of health problems that became worse during lockdown. Towards May/June, I was losing the ability to use my legs. Moving less was having an impact on my joints and I wasn’t able to leave the house because of my health. I’ve only got a small garden (around 10m round), but I started walking round it to try to get my movement up. Doing it regularly has helped increase my lung capacity and I can walk for five or six hours now. I recently did 10k as part of a sponsored walk for the British lung Foundation. I’m determined to keep it up, but I’m starting to make a muddy path around my garden now the weather is changing! The difference it’s made to my legs is incredible; I feel much stronger and it gives my day some structure and improves my mentality.”

…“walking has made me a different person.”

Leanne, 39, social worker

“When it was announced that you could go travelling within five miles of your area, I walked up the hills behind my house (I live in Scotland and a lot of the walks are hilly). For me, mentally, it’s an escape. All you need to concentrate on is where you’re going to end up or getting to that summit. It gives you a chance to think about what’s going on in that moment. You’ve not got work to think about or the house to clean; you just get to be you. I used to go out for three-hour walks, but now I do anything from six to eight. I’ve made loads of friendships as well because you often meet people on the hills in Scotland. You never just walk by someone, you have a chat and you get to know them. I’m not visually athletic - I’m a curvy woman, but people see me out and about and walking and they think that they can do it as well. My plan next year is to do the Glencoe Challenge, but I also turn 40 next year, so I’ve made a list of challenges that I want to do before then. To anyone who doesn’t think walking is for them, I would say, just try it. It’s not going to be easy if you’re starting from scratch or going uphill, but not a lot of things are easy at the end of the day. Every time I do it I think, I’m never doing that again, but when I get home and have a shower I realise how much better I feel for doing. Walking has made me a different person and my friends and family all say that I look so happy for it.”