Professor O'Mara, from the Experimental Brain Research Institute of Neuroscience at Trinity College, Dublin, explored the new science of how we walk and why it's good for us during the annual event on October 27.
He was later joined by our Chief Officer, Ian Findlay CBE and Dr William Bird MBE, a GP and CEO of Intelligent Health, to discuss how walking and physical activity could help in the fight against Covid-19.
During his keynote, Professor O'Mara discussed the evolution of walking and how we have learned to walk before talking about policy implications for our built environment. He said:
Walking is one of the greatest pleasures but it's also something that is very easily overlooked in the course of our everyday lives.
In learning to walking, the average child takes 2400 steps per hour and falls 17 times an hour.
Learning to walk is a skill unlike any other.
He also addressed the challenges older people face moving around, particularly in towns and cities where "pedestrians are too often ignored in favour of motorists".
Professor O'Mara also explored the impact of physical activity on the immune system and the role of muscles as immune regulatory organs, commenting:
It has recently been recognised that muscles participate in the regulation of the immune system in a very profound and important fashion.
The view that has now been taken is that one of the very important things that we can get out of movement is this boost to immune activity that does not occur if we merely sit around.
So activity is profoundly important; it feeds back onto a variety of organ systems and the body as a whole in a protective and therapeutic fashion that it would not otherwise have done.
Following the main presentation, Dr Bird described the central role of walking as we enter a "bad winter":
When my patients ask me, how can I not get Covid, walking is one of the things we can offer.
When we start to contract the muscles with a brisk walk, we create natural killer cells which can mop up the virus before it gets into the body.
So walking and being active is incredibly important.
Both speakers were then joined by Ian Findlay for a stimulating discussion on topics such as immunity, inequalities, and public health priorities.
To enjoy the whole presentation, watch the video above or click here.