Walking is an activity most people can get involved in by starting slowly and building up gently. Leeds City Council’s Active Lifestyle team has supported a number of local groups and organisations to understand the benefits of walking, and how to support local communities to walk more. Over the last 12 months the Active Lifestyles team have worked on a number of schemes which include Walking for Health, Health Achievement & Learning Opportunities (HALO) and the Living Streets Walking Project.
The team have trained 60 new walk leaders on behalf of Walking for Health. These walk leaders have either supported existing groups or have been developing new community led walks within their areas. People trained to represent those from accredited Walking for Health schemes are: third sector organisations, NHS walks, Family support workers, Leeds Let’s Get Active and small community groups. Many have gone back to their own groups and have been putting their skills into practice.
One of the walk leaders said, ‘It has helped lift people’s moods. We have worked with mums with depression and mental illness and they say it has been a turning point in their recovery.’
Another said, ‘My group has been running since my training. I take a group out every other week. We have done at least five different walks on rotation. People from different backgrounds, ages, and abilities have joined us. The group changes regularly as people have other commitments, but on average we have between five and ten walkers every other week. People relay their enjoyment, varying from person to person. We get through a lot of bread as one lady really enjoys feeding the ducks. I feel every one of my walkers benefits in one way or another. I will continue as long as the people still want to walk and enjoy it.’
The Active Lifestyles team have also linked with the Living Streets Walking project, which is a part of the City Connect Walking work. They run the Armley and New Wortley Social Rewards scheme which is aiming to get the community to clock up three million steps. The Active Lifestyle team delivered Walking Champion training to 10 members of the community on behalf of the Living Streets Walking project who were either from organisations or local volunteers. These Walking Champions will be supporting people to set themselves a target and work towards it individually or with the support of led walks.
The promotion of walking has continued with a walking workshop including a couple of members from the Health Achievement & Learning Opportunities (HALO) group in April 2015. HALO is a community based service for adults with learning disabilities, based within the Hamara Centre, Beeston. Within the session Chris and Faz looked at how they could be good walking champions for their group, learning about why walking is good for them, what a ‘good walk champion’ looks like and what to do if they spot hazards whilst out walking, then going out for a short walk to put their skills into practice.