Walking group scheme can be 'silver bullet' this Christmas

  |  Published: Dec 16th 2016
Simply Walk Christmas Walk 2015
Simply Walk Christmas Walk 2015

A council officer in charge of the county’s walking groups believes they can be the ‘silver bullet’ to reduce social isolation and keep people active over the festive season.

Buckinghamshire County Council’s Simply Walk programme offers over 70 free, weekly guided walks right across the county, enjoyed by more than 500 people every week.

The physical health gains from regular exercise such as walking are well known, but for lead officer Fiona Broadbent, who has been the coordinator for Simply Walk since shortly after it was launched 14 years ago, there are even greater benefits for people’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

“This is particularly true at Christmas, when for whatever reason some people are unable to be with loved ones and there’s perhaps a heightened sense of isolation,” said Fiona.

“We find the walks really bring people together. They can have a good chat while they walk and we’ve known for lifelong friendships to be formed.

"It doesn’t take many steps before your mind starts to untangle itself – I think it must be the rhythm of your footsteps, being outside and back with nature.

"I really do believe walking is the silver bullet for improving body and mind.”

There are Simply Walk sessions on throughout the whole year, including bank holidays such as Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. They are run by an army of 300 volunteers, who give up a total of around 5,000 hours a year to support the groups.

Fiona is even leading a Simply Walk group on Christmas Day, meeting at Hedsor Social Club at 10.45am.

“We recognise that not everyone has a family gathering to attend on Christmas Day - and those that do may welcome the opportunity to get out the house and enjoy some fresh air! It’s a chance to get outside and enjoy some friendly banter with your fellow walkers, followed by a warm mince pie and maybe a pint with the locals.”

She added: “There’s a walk for everybody – they are graded from one to four based on difficulty and length, starting at 30-45 minutes. A lot of people who join us had previously enjoyed walking as part of a couple and have perhaps been widowed. They don’t feel comfortable walking on their own, but really enjoy meeting up and going for a walk with other people.”

Responsible cabinet member Mark Shaw said: “Christmas can be a difficult time for people if they’re unable to spend it with loved ones, so it’s great that these walking groups are available throughout the festive season. I know that when you’re out walking with people you forget about all your cares and woes. The Simply Walk programme keeps people fit and also contributes to them staying independent for longer.”

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