‘I don’t even feel like I’m working out’: Gemma’s story


Rediscovering her love of walking was a gamechanger for Gemma after she had her first child. Strapping on a child carrier come rain or shine is now second nature to her and her young family, and she’s never looked back


Gemma was always going to be an outdoorsy adult. With scout leaders for parents, normal to her was being bundled into a backpack and hiked around the Dartmoor hills. 

“But apparently, not everyone had that upbringing,” she tells Vitality Magazine. Now a leader herself, and being involved in scouts from a young age, Gemma’s love of nature has been unwavering throughout her life. 

Her passion for the outdoors, however, was stopped in its tracks when the pandemic struck. 

Having just had her first baby in March 2019, Gemma had been regaining her confidence to get out and enjoy the spring of March 2020 when she and her new family were ordered indoors. “We all know what happened by the end of the month,” she recalls. 

Once she was finally released from the shackles from the ‘stay at home’ order, Gemma began recreating the Dartmoor hill scenes from her childhood. 


“I was more active during my second pregnancy because I’d found walking”


Gemma, Vitality member

She’d routinely pack her daughter into her backpack carrier and whisk her off for a walk around their local countryside. 

“Walking with my daughter eventually built up over time, especially as she got older,” Gemma reflects. “Then, when I was pregnant with my second, we kept walking and I was more active during my second pregnancy because I’d found walking,” she adds. 

“In the long-run I think that helped me to recover quickly, which I needed to do because having a three-and-a-half-year-old and a new-born, it’s quite challenging, but I had the energy to remain active.”

After the birth of her second baby, a few years later, the three of them would venture off for little walks together, “even if it was to the shop instead of getting in the car,” she says. 

And it wasn’t long before Gemma’s girls had developed a love of the outdoors too, just like their mum. “As a family it’s made us notice the environment around us; my eldest is far more aware of the natural world around her and can identify different things.

“It’s also been really important for us in teaching road safety too, and there are plenty of other benefits.” 

Better than the gym

Prior to rediscovering her love of physical activity through walking, Gemma had been a weekly gymgoer. However, with no real passion for dumbbells or squat racks, she didn’t quite gel with the environment. 

“In the gym, you’re staring at the same four walls, and yes, I would always work out, but I always felt awkward,” she says. “I just felt conscious at the gym; I find walking is so much better for me. I don’t even feel like I’m working out, I just feel like I’ve gone out for a walk with my girls.

In rekindling her love for the outdoors and finding something for her and her daughters to do together, Gemma believes her days working out were never as effective as the hours spent walking. 

“Before, I was going to the gym to lose weight and I found that when I had my youngest, I actually lost weight so much quicker than I did previously and that was just by going out for walks,” she says.

Time is of the essence

Gemma has also found that walking fits better with her busy schedule. “Now my eldest is in school, making sure I’m around for pick-up time makes it harder to fit in exercise,” she says.

But being able to go out at any time is much more beneficial than if we were restrained by classes, and I think we’d stay at home more if I didn’t have walking.”The whole experience has taken her by surprise. “I surprised myself. And now I’m super active and I hardly feel tired.”

And new research by Vitality has validated the long-term health benefits of walking. Findings show that walking 5,000 steps three times a week for two years is estimated to add three years to women’s life expectancy [1]. 

You can watch Gemma’s story and hear how she stays active and enjoys benefits from Vitality below.

[1] The Habit Index, London School of Economics (LSE) and Vitality, 2024

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