Every journey begins with a first step

Geoff Simmons pointing at a street sign

The uncertain times we’re living in have made keeping active more of a challenge. With many of the classes we might usually attend cancelled or moved online, and some people feeling unsure about attending gyms or leisure centres when they’re open, our options for physical activity might seem limited.

Geoff Simmons, who designs our supporter magazine Healthy You, has been sharing maps of the history of his local area to encourage people to keep moving. You can see him above pointing out the house where The Beatles allegedly had a 1963 Tooting Sleepover. Scroll down to find out what he’s been up to. But first…

What’s the fuss about walking?

Walking has lots of benefits: it’s free, it can be done almost anywhere, it can be done alone or with others, and it can lift your mood. But did you know that walking can also reduce your risk of cancer?

That’s because moderate physical activity reduces our risk of colon, breast and womb cancer – so it’s especially important for women. Walking counts as moderate phyiscal activity if it’s brisk and you’re getting slightly out of breath, but can still have a conversation.

Some of the ways walking helps to lower cancer risk are:

  • keeps hormone levels healthy
  • protects against inflammation
  • helps move food through your digestive system
  • helps you maintain a healthy weight

Great escapes

Geoff SimmonsOur designer Geoff writes: “I’ve been doing local history guided walks in my area for a few years but had to stop due to the pandemic. I wanted to help people get out during the lockdowns so I converted the walks into easy-to-follow online guides and a map which could be printed out or read on a mobile phone. I called them ‘Great Escapes’ because that’s what I thought they were – a break from being stuck indoors and a great way for people to get to know a little more about where they live while enjoying some exercise and stimulation at a difficult time.

“I quickly turned out four or five and then things snowballed as everyone kept asking for more! There are now 25 freely available guides for walks around south-west London. Depending on current restrictions, people can do the walks on their own, with their household or with a friend. They’re suitable for all ages – it gave me a great buzz recently to meet a whole family walking around clutching one of my maps.

“They’re not just about history, they point out interesting things going on now that people might not know about – the local food bank, the group that meet to clean up the river, the community garden for people with disabilities.

“There are plenty of parks, riverside walks and green spaces included but people are also guided to unlikely places. Previously dull streets suddenly take on a new life when you find out that a notable person once lived there or something extraordinary happened.”

> Our Cancer Prevention Recommendation is to move more

> What’s the evidence around physical activity and cancer?

> Visit Geoff’s website: https://summerstown182.wordpress.com/

This is an extract from Healthy You, our exclusive magazine for supporters. To find out more about our work and how you can receive Healthy You, email our lovely Supporter Services team wcrf@wcrf.org or call free on 0800 970 1461.