A trio of walking enthusiasts have shared their love for a Health Walk initiative as 650 group walks aimed at boosting health and wellbeing restart throughout Scotland.
Paths for All’s Health Walks help individuals improve their fitness and wellbeing whilst bringing together communities and building relationships – which has been experienced by 67-year-old Ian Kelly, 80-year-old Helen and 47-year-old Annmarie Kirkland.
Information on the free walks is available via an online map detailing when and where they take place as well as information about how to join them. Over 650 walks take place each week, from Shetland to the Scottish Borders.
Health Walks have been endorsed by leading health experts such as Professor Jason Leitch who is encouraging people across the country to go along.
Ian Kelly from South Lanarkshire joined Paths for All’s Health Walk group eight years ago after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and heart problems.
Retiree Ian said:
“My doctor encouraged me to keep active and a few days later I noticed an advertisement in my local church about the walking group in East Kilbride.
“The group has been essential to improving my overall wellbeing and it’s ideal to get out in the fresh air socialising with people who soon became friends. Interacting with a variety of people and hearing their stories has been a nice relief.
“The group helped me that much that three years after joining in 2016, I trained as a Health Walk Leader to give people the safe space I’d enjoyed so much.
“The woodland is a beautiful walk and we’re extremely lucky to experience it in all weathers and seasons – admiring and focusing on nature helps me forget my worries.
“Lockdown affected everyone differently but for me, it was pretty isolating so it was a sign of normality when the Health Walks resumed. I’d been looking forward to getting back out in the community with the group again.
“Since returning, we’ve seen an increase in members, it has almost been one new member every week which is great news. I hope the new members get the same amazing benefits out of the group as I have.”
Helen from Stirling joined the Health Walk group after spending several months caring for her ill husband before he passed away. She has since made many memories and relationships which have lifted her spirits ever since.
“Since joining the Health Walk group I’ve seen and felt a big improvement to my mobility and general quality of life.
“Walking most weeks has helped me become much stronger and my stamina has got better. I used to struggle going up the stairs but now it just feels like a normal activity again which I am delighted about.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back out doing something I enjoy and exploring my local area – it will be a great change of routine.
“Being back on familiar paths in the glorious countryside, seeing an abundance of red squirrels from the Aberfoyle Lodge Hide, and having a have a coffee with new friends outside in the sunshine – what more could you want?”
The walks are a short, low-level and local activity led by trained volunteers and are open to all in communities across Scotland.
Annmarie Kirkland from Stepps joined the walking group after a long period of bad health which impacted her life negatively and knew she had to make major changes.
“The walks have had a significant impact on everyone in the group. From building a sense of community after feeling isolated during the pandemic, to knowing that we are doing something that has a positive impact on our health.
“I get a lot of social benefits from the group as well; the companionship has made a really positive impact and I started noticing health improvements.
“The group allows people experiencing difficulties to have a designated time every week to meet with like-minded individuals and relate to similar issues and sharing advice.
“It has been a difficult year for many and walking helped the group come together and reconnect, all whilst doing something positive for our mental, physical and social wellbeing.
“The relationships created within the group have flourished and we actually now have a community garden space to support one another.”
Health Walks happen weekly, welcoming everyone of all ages and experiences to join. The walks are free, short and friendly to all.
Helen Morrison, Senior Development Officer at Paths for All, said:
“It is great to hear of individuals benefiting from our Health Walks.
“Our Health Walk projects and volunteers are ready and excited to welcome new walkers along to their local walk and reap the social, mental and physical health benefits from getting outdoors and exercising with a group of local people.
“Each walk is led by a trained volunteer following Covid-19 government guidelines, and we hope this will provide those who don’t yet feel completely comfortable in getting out and about again the reassurance they need.
“If you haven’t been active in a while and are looking for some support to get moving, or you’ve missed connecting with people and are looking for some company, our Health Walks are a great place to start. You’ll be sure to receive a warm welcome from our Walk Leaders!”
For more information on Paths for All, please visit: https://www.pathsforall.org.uk.