Walking and wheeling can be a person’s best medicine. A modern take on what Hippocrates said over 2,000 years ago, and the principle is still the same. Walking can have a wide range of benefits to a person’s health; physical, mental and social. No modern medicine can have all these positive impacts, as well as no negative side effects. Even for those of us that cautiously consider a negative point may be falls or trips, studies show you are more likely to experience a fall if you are not physically active, ie. walking.
But, how do we encourage people to be more physically active, and enjoy the immediate and long term benefits when there is a larger emphasis on perceived barriers such as I’m out of practice, I don’t know where to walk, I don’t feel safe walking, the weather is not so good, I can’t afford to join a group? This is where Health Walks are the perfect solution (although we can’t control the weather!). Health Walks are low-level, local group walks, designed and led by trained volunteers in and around a local community. The volunteers will together consider the abilities and pace of those that turn up for their weekly walk and plan the route carefully. Dues must be paid to volunteers – they really are a welcoming and friendly bunch of people.
Everyone is welcome on a Health Walk and with 850 regular Health Walks taking place across Scotland, it is possible to find one close to where your client lives. Health Walks are free and generally no booking is required, once you have checked in with the Health Walk provider to confirm times and start points for the new participant. Those wishing to join can turn up whenever their health allows. There are no commitments to payments, subscriptions or limited blocks. Health Walks are there for participants to access week in week out. We’ve heard time and again that once an individual begins to attend a Health Walk regularly, they may notice an improvement in their mental health, an improvement to mood, an enjoyment of getting out in the fresh air and connecting with nature. Other weeks individuals may enjoy the social aspect of meeting new people, a blether along the way and after a while clients may notice their physical health improving.
Jan explains how joining a Health Walk in Shotts has positively contributed to her life. She says,
“You don’t notice the distance when you walk and chat at same time! The benefits seem subtle, but they really aren’t, I have met a whole new circle of friends. Within that first hour I felt welcomed into their walking circle and chatted the whole way round. Since joining the walking group, I’ve taken part in other activities like lunches and creative workshops.
The walks are a great way to give you a wee kick start to your day, whether it’s sun, wind or just a dull day – they help to clear your head and refreshes you. The physical benefits increase your strength without you even noticing and you gradually find it gets easier and easier to walk the distance, and the pace that you walk doesn’t matter.”
The best way to appreciate the benefits of a Health Walk is to, first of all, attend one yourself. You’ll experience how welcoming the volunteers are, how long the route is and how good the chat and company is. You may want to support your client by going along with them during their first visit if they wish it, to help alleviate some of those personal barriers (such as confidence or uncertainty) or you may wish to have a conversation with the Health Walks provider beforehand to inform them a new participant will be coming along.
You can find out more about and join your local Health Walk here.
I’d highly recommend you join one, go for walk, and enjoy the incredible benefits – honestly, it’s the best medicine.
For more information contact: SHWN@pathsforall.org.uk
Helen Morrison is the Senior Development Officer at Paths for All.