Sometimes overlooked as a form of exercise, walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier. You don't have to walk for hours. A brisk 10-minute daily walk has lots of health benefits and counts towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise.
Before you start
Any shoes or trainers that are comfortable, provide adequate support and don't cause blisters will do. If you're walking to work, you could wear your usual work clothes with a comfy pair of shoes and change shoes when you get into work.
For long walks, you may want to take some water, healthy snacks, a spare top, sunscreen and a sunhat in a small backpack. If you start going for longer walks regularly, you may want to invest in a waterproof jacket and some specialist walking shoes for more challenging routes.
Walking along Ireland's Waterways
We are so lucky, there are hundreds of trails along Ireland's waterways and canals. Situated on the doorsteps of thousands across Ireland, walking along Ireland's waterways is the most enjoyable, free, and one of the easiest ways to get more active lose weight and become healthier.
1. Portlick Millennium Forest Walk: Filled with whimsical wooded glades offerings views of Lough Ree, this lovely forest walk weaves through a woodland of hazel, ash, beech and sycamore on grassy paths and earthy trails. Running to around 5km in length, with shorter trails available, the walk is located on the Whinning Peninsula near the village of Glasson, and makes a lovely spot for a picnic.
2. Toome Canal Walk: Stretching alongside the mirror-like waters of the Toome Canal, this very pleasant walk leads right out to the tip of Lough Neagh, where panoramas of the vast waters spread out before you. Turn right on the way back and follow the pleasing little trail through a small wood filled with moss-covered trees twisting and turning out of the marshy waters.
3. Lough Boora Parklands: Just a 40-minute drive from Athlone and you're into what can only be described as a walking wonderland, where modern life fades into a landscape of tobacco-coloured bogland, lakes, wildlife and Mesolithic history. Once a commercial peat bog, Lough Boora has been transformed into a haven for walkers, cyclists and anglers. The five walking routes range from around 3km to 15km and maps and trails can be downloaded from their website at loughboora.com.
4. Ballyconnell Looped Walk: This loop takes in riverbank paths and woodland tracks as it explores the banks of the Woodford River , part of the canal linking the Shannon and Erne Rivers and Annagh Lough Woods. A woodland of oak, ash and beech trees and also a wildlife reserve.
5. Warren Point Looped Walk: Set on the western shore of Lough Ree in County Roscommon, this fascinating loop mixes history with heartbreakingly beautiful vistas. The 5km trail through woods and lakeside trails is home to the incredible archaeological site of Rindoon, a medieval town with ivy-clad ruins that seem to grow out of the green Eden that surrounds them. The castle in particular is a highlight here, seeming perfectly at one with its surrounds.
6. Mountsandel Wood: The rush of the river, the dart of birds and the bursts of lush green foliage would be enough to make this walk enjoyable, but history elevates it to something far more profound… Two paths, one along the river bank and one through the forest, bring you to an incredible Anglo-Norman fort blanketed in grass and boasting lovely views of the river and countryside beyond. But that's not all – Mounsandel is the site of the earliest known human habitation on the island of Ireland, dating back a head-melting 7000BC and while you can't actually visit the place of the earliest camp, you really do get the sense that history whispers through these woods…
7. Battlebridge to Acres Lake: This lovely walking trail can be completed in either direction from Drumhauver Bridge or Acres Lake. Follow the towpath around the lovely loop on eitherside of the canal on the Shannon Blueway. These off road trails are a wonderful way to explore the beauty and wildlife living along the Shannon Blueway and be sure to pay a visit to the new and iconic Acres Lake floating boardwalk where you can 'walk on water'!
8. Cloondara to Longford Town: The 16km off-road trail between Cloondara and Longford Town has been developed for use by walkers and cyclists. It provides a tranquil and safe environment along the banks of the Shannon & Royal Canal Blueways along with the Longford Branch. It's all on flat terrain so suitable for walkers of all ages and abilities.
9. Kilarcan to Kilclare Walking Trail: The Killarcan to Kilclare walking trail is a linear walkway alongside the beautiful Shannon-Erne. A mainly grassed surface for most of the way, the trailhead at Lock 16 Killarcan is only a few minutes from Leitrim Village. The trail follow the waterside closely, crossing over the pretty bridges along this gentle walking route to the other trailhead at Lock 9 Kilclare.
10. Ballinamore Looped Walking Trail: The Ballinamore Looped Walking Trail meanders alongside the tranquil waters of the Shannon-Erne, with the picturesque village of Ballinamore at the centre. This 4.5km looped trail starts at Ballinamore Marina before looping around at Longstones and back to the beautiful town of Ballinamore