Winter walks

Don't hide away inside just because it's a bit chilly. A brisk walk in the fresh air is good for the mind, body and soul - and family bonding

Auckland South is a beautiful place, full of rolling landscapes, beaches and inlets, and hills to climb. Even when the weather is bad, getting out for a walk is good. A 2014 report by the UK Ramblers Association and MacMillian Cancer Support found that walking for just 25 minutes a day could improve your health, saving over 37,000 lives a year and reducing the number of type 2 diabetes cases by 300,000. Meanwhile in California, scientists found that regular walking can reduce your risk of heart disease by 9.3%, compared to 4.5% for runners. 

As well as your physical health, scientists at California State University have found great benefits for your emotional wellbeing too.

"People seem to be interested in walking as a health benefit, but here, we're seeing it's not just cardiovascular health and other kinds of physical health that are important, but psychological health as well," explains Professor Robert Thayer who lead the study. "The more a person walks has a very real and immediate psychological effect that an individual can experience every day."

What you need

Crowded House didn't sing about four seasons in one day for nothing. New Zealand is a changeable place weather-wise, especially in winter, so best be prepared even if you're just going for a light stroll. Make sure you have a back pack or comfortable bag to carry the following items in:

- a water bottle 

- a waterproof jacket and/or umbrella

- healthy snacks 

- a dry jumper, put it in a plastic bag in case it rains

Make sure you take a mobile phone if you have one, and your ATHop card or some spare change for the bus in case you get tired and don't want to walk home.

Where to go

Walking is about getting your arms and legs moving, and spending some quality time with your family, so don't feel you have to go anywhere special. You could just walk around the block after dinner. Here are some walks around Auckland South that could be fun.

Seaside Park, Otahuhu - At the end of Princess Street East you will find a playground. Park up for the start of the 2km loop with great views of Tamaki Estuary. There are picnic tables to enjoy your snack on a fine day. 

Puhinui Reserve - A real local treasure, access this 200ha reserve via Prices Road. There are many different tracks to explore, with plenty of bird life, native plants and great views. There's even a cycle track if the kids want to take their bikes. 

Wiri urban loop - Starting at the corner of Kerrs Road and Inverell Avenue, walk down Inverell behind Wiri Central School. Just before you reach the end on your left hand side is a footpath cut through to the reserve behind. Follow the path then turn right and walk the loop around the lake taking the footpath cut through to Trevor Hosken Drive. Head up toward Druces Road, turn left and keep walking until you reach Kerrs Road. Turn left again and walk back to the start. Why not talk to your kids about road safety on the way.

Games to play

Don't march in silence, get the fun flowing with these ideas!

Red car, blue car - great for an urban walk, one team spots the reds and the other spots the blues, the team with the most points at the end wins. Do trucks count? You decide! You could also ask older children to add up the number plate numbers on the cars they spot.

Sing a sign - get your children to spot a sign, read it, and then turn it into a song. 

Eye spy - a family classic, see how creative you can get out in the reserves with native plants and birds.

Puddle splash - perfect for a rainy day. Dress in wet weather gear and jump between the puddles scoring points for each one you land in.

Walking is a great way to have fun, stay healthy and spend time with the whanau. Enjoy!