Health & wellbeing

Get out and about with the help of a new app from Leeds City Council. Plus our regular writer Ruth Steinberg reviews the ‘Love Exploring’ App.

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March 2022

We all know physical exercise is good for us. The health benefits of keep-fit, swimming or jogging are often talked about. But not all of us enjoy exercise.
 
What about walking? It’s relatively simple to do – and you can go at your own pace. You can get out in nature, chat to people on the way and you don’t need to wear ridiculous sports gear. Sometimes, going for a walk doesn’t even feel like exercise!
 
Leeds City Council is aware of the benefits of walking regularly, so they’ve teamed up with a digital company called Love Exploring to develop bespoke walks in the city. Love Exploring is a free app that you can download on to your mobile phone. The idea is that you can follow trails and guided walks in local parks and areas of interest. There are even games and quizzes for children, though there’s no reason why older people might not have a go at them.
 
We asked regular Shine writer Ruth Steinberg to try out the app and review it. Was Love Exploring an unqualified hit, or did Ruth have some reservations? Did she stride forth confidently, or come a cropper in a muddy bog? Was the technology involved easy to navigate, or was it a step too far? Find out on the opposite page. And overleaf, we detail all the health benefits walking can give you.

The health benefits of keep-fit, swimming or jogging are often talked about. But not all of us enjoy exercise
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Love Exploring – Reviewed

by Ruth Steinberg.

 

At the start of the pandemic, we were encouraged to take daily walks and I really appreciated going out locally: the sound of the birds; the way nature just got on with growing and showing. So, I was pleased when I was asked to try out this Love Exploring app. I downloaded it on my phone and off I went.

 

I tried out 2 walks. The first was what they called a Mindfulness Walk in Roundhay Park. I started the trail at the top lake. As I walked, I listened to a voice encouraging me to slow right down, to notice my breath. There were the occasional short poems. It was going very well until I found myself crossing a sodden patch of ground. I must admit that I didn’t have the right footwear; it wasn’t long until I was slipping and sliding about. I ended up on my bum! So, mindfulness went out the window. I was grateful for the map though – it helped a muddy me get back to the car as quickly and easily as possible.

 

My next walk was on Woodhouse Ridge. It is many years since I walked there. It was a delight to reacquaint myself with this part of Leeds and the app enriched my walk. It pointed out features such as the stream and the pond, or views over the Meanwood Valley. It was a circular walk, and the app continually shows you where you are on the trail, like a satnav used in a car. There are photographs of what you are looking at so there is reassurance that you are on the right path.

 

On the Ridge, I got talking to one woman who had a beautiful blue-grey greyhound. She was a teacher and was excited to hear about the Love Exploring app. She told me she would look at it and tell the parents of her pupils about it. Resources like this (which are free and easy to use) are a gift to parents who are looking for interesting things for their children. There are games created with young people in mind. But, as George Bernard Shaw said, “You don’t stop playing when you get old, you grow old when you stop playing.”

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Ruth Steinberg has a moment to rest on Woodhouse Ridge in Leeds

I am someone who likes technology. There are no written instructions, it’s trial and error. This app is intuitive and (mostly) I could work it out quite quickly. It covers the whole of England and uses satnav to pinpoint where you are. When you open it up, it knows you’re in Leeds and shows you the walks in this city. However, I can look forward to using in to see what walks are available in other parts of the country. One of the things I like, is that you can look at one of the walks without going there. You just scroll through the photos and read the information.

 

Even if you don’t physically do the walk there is so much to learn about this city. I took an interesting “virtual” walk around Elland Road and learned a lot.

 

In conclusion, for me, this app works well and I will be using it in the future. Using it on a walk was interesting and refreshed places that I know well. It led me to explore places I don’t know. On the trail itself, the photographs are a real support. I could always see where I was, even when the trail map was unclear. There is additional information on facilities, nearby places to visit, transport, and maps. I can imagine going out with my grandchildren, who love apps and technology. It certainly encouraged me to go out and explore on my own, as I felt confident that I wouldn’t get lost. It was a good combination of being interactive and enabling. It opened up bits of Leeds and I’m sure it will lead me to do more exploring (with or without a map). So, despite the limitations that inevitably come with technology-based inventions, I can heartily recommend this app. For me, anything that can support connecting with the world outside my four walls is worth exploring.

 

Ruth did two walks with the Love Exploring app, but there are many more. The app is free to download, just search for Love Exploring on the App Store on your smart phone. Or go to loveexploring.co.uk for all the information about the walks.

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What’s so good about walking? Delve into the health benefits, discover easy ways to start walking and get all the information about how to use the Love Exploring app.

WALK FOR YOU BODY
Walking has proven physical health benefits. You don’t have to go to the gym or go running. Just a stroll in a local park is enough to help you lose weight and feel better. Walking is also good for your heart. Anything that keeps your heart rate up can reduce the risk of heart disease. There are other health benefits too: walking reduces the risk of Type-2 diabetes, strengthens the bones, and reduces the risk of developing cancer.

WALK FOR YOUR BRAIN
It’s amazing how getting out into nature can cheer us up. It’s no fun being cooped up, as we know from the last 2 years. Even a stroll around the local park can improve our mental health. Get out in the fresh air every day, even if it’s raining. If you know anyone else at a loose end, you could walk with them. Pack a thermos, or (even better) stop off at a local café for a chat.
 
Being physically active can also reduce the risk of developing dementia. And if you have dementia, walking is good too. It can improve strength and flexibility. And also help with sleep and anxiety. Some studies suggest it might improve memory too.

WALKING TIPS
- Start slowly. Don’t try going up Ben Nevis at first! Just 10 minutes a day is a good way to begin.
 
- It’s good to walk a little every day. Try popping to the shops to pick up a paper in the morning.
 
- Use the stairs instead of the lift
 
- Plan a walk to the Dales with friends
 
- See if you can visit every park in Leeds
 
- Join a walking group – there are plenty in the area.
 
- Soft ground is easier than hard ground. Walk on the grass!

 LOVE TO EXPLORE
Love Exploring is a mobile phone app that shows you walking routes in your area. There are games, guided trails and maps. The guided trails have been curated with local experts from Leeds. You could discover historical facts or learn the names of the trees. The maps are excellent for finding your way and knowing where you are at all times.
 
The app is free to download. Just go to the App Store on your phone and type in “Love Exploring”.You have to log in to create an account. When you’ve logged in, the app will work out where you are and show you maps, walks and trails in the Leeds area. However, you can use the app all over the country.
 
For all the information on the app and how it works, go to www.loveexploring.co.uk

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