Slowly increasing your daily numbers of steps and incorporating more walking into everyday routines could improve the nation’s health, Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency has said.

Medical experts say being more active through everyday activities such as gardening and playing outdoors with children could make a big difference when it comes to reducing obesity rates.

Around two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children in Northern Ireland are obese or overweight, with the average number of steps around 3,000 to 4,000.

Dr Hannah McCourt, a senior health and social wellbeing improvement officer with the PHA, said people should take advantage of the fact that walking is free and can easily be incorporated into everyday life.

She said: “We would like to see people increasing their steps and their physical activity. A brisk walk can reduce anxiety, help manage weight, lower your blood pressure and can help you sleep better.”

By walking for an additional half-hour every day, you can burn an extra 1,000 calories a week. Brisk walking brings additional benefits by improving heart health and burning excess calories.

Walking football clubs, which encourage brisk walking, are growing in popularity, with more women now taking part in the sport.

Experts say that slowly building up your steps over time is a good approach. This can be done by making small changes, like getting off the bus a few stops earlier or parking further away.

They have also stressed that for increased movement to be effective, people also need to be mindful of how many calories they are consuming.

As part of the PHA’s 2021 obesity prevention campaign, people who are overweight were urged to reduce their portion sizes.

It is predicted that by 2030, an extra 11m adults in the UK will be obese and could be suffering from obesity-related conditions including some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

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