I can hear you mutter ‘’all walking is healthy, what is so special about this one?’’ Walking for Health is about organised and risk-assessed short community group walks. It is the name given by Dr William Bird (MBE), who started the first health walks in the early 90s. He felt his patients could do without some medications if they just got outside to walk and talk in a group. He set up walk schemes to encourage people in the UK to exercise in order to promote good health, and he was awarded an MBE for his contributions to health and physical well-being.
Walking for Health is the largest network of group health walks nationwide, and it is one of the little pleasures in our society that you can go on a free volunteer-led walk almost everywhere. Every GP should be able to recommend a local community walk for those patients who need it most. The walks are all led by volunteer walk leaders trained by the Ramblers organisation.
Thousands of people across the country are out doing health walks, making new friends and leading more active lifestyles. The walks are led by friendly, specially trained volunteers who are on hand to provide encouragement and support, making sure no one gets left behind. Walks tend to be an hour (or shorter), with backmarkers walking at the pace of walkers at the rear. The walks tend to be over easy terrain, open to everyone, but are especially aimed at those who are least active.
Walking has so many benefits: it helps keep weight down, and can also help to control blood-sugar levels, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke; it lowers blood pressure, increases life expectancy and reduces pain for people with arthritis. It is the perfect antidote for loneliness. Walking makes you feel better, relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety, particularly walking in green spaces. Walking in a group gives you a sense of belonging.
To quote some of our wonderful walkers:
‘’Walking in a group is great for you mentally and physically. You get to socialise, meet and chat with other people which helps to combat loneliness. You get to exercise with others and know you will not be walking alone, so you feel safe and have support.’’
‘’Walking for Health has transformed my life. It took me back into the community from growing isolation and mental health problems. Without it my battle would be much tougher.’’
‘’I joined Walking for Health after I lost my husband as I needed to exercise having suffered badly from sciatica that year and was nervous of walking in the countryside alone. The walks have been so beneficial not only in health but in coping mentally with my loss. I have made many friends on the walks and some of these have provided great support for me especially as I do not have family close by. It is now, rain or shine, an integral part of my week.’’
‘’The walks are not only helping me to recover from prostate cancer but also beat loneliness as I was recently widowed. They are a lifeline for many and are such a friendly group of people. I would strongly recommend them.’’
Guildford Walking for Health has a number of walk groups around Guildford, with walks on weekday mornings: From the Shalford Seahorse Inn Wednesdays at 10 am; the Whitmoor Common Jolly Farmer Fridays at 11am.
The Boxgrove Park walks are a bit more strenuous as they are hillier and up to 90 minutes long — these walks encourage walkers to stretch themselves. The Boxgrove walks are at 10am on Mondays, from the Peacocks Greengrocers, Cunningham Avenue.
Well-behaved dogs on short leads are welcome.
Two new groups are planned, with walks from Worplesdon Place on Tuesday mornings, and the Shere Village Hall on Thursday mornings. Walks can’t take place without the valued assistance of volunteers. Helping others is a fabulous way to give back to your local community.
Volunteer walk leaders are needed to make the above new walks a reality. Please email Guildfordwfh@outlook.com, or call 07554 423010.