Walking and wheeling side by side for wellbeing and good mental health

Movement is important for our mental health. But many of us can struggle to find ways in the day to be physically active. There are many reasons for this such as lack of confidence, anxiety and fear of stigma.

Walking side by side with OneRen Health Walks at Barshaw Park in Paisley

Walking or wheeling in your local community with support can be a great way to get started.

Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual, national celebration centred around wellbeing spearheaded by the Mental Health Foundation and widely supported by partner organisations across Scotland. The 2024 campaign theme was ‘Movement: Moving more for your mental health’. The week is the start of a longer-term conversation for some members of the Scottish Health Walk Network, whilst for others, inspires continuing journeys to make Health Walks even more inclusive.

We’re supporting the Scottish Health Walk Network to raise awareness of the benefits of walking and wheeling for wellbeing and good mental health, and as a catalyst for invaluable, open conversations amongst Health Walk participants. In early 2024, we invited members of the SHWN to support the design and delivery of a mental health campaign which would achieve these goals.

The campaign is part of our long-term partnership with Scottish Action for Mental Health (SAMH) on raising awareness and engagement of SHWN members with the Scottish Mental Health Charter for Physical Activity and Sport. The Charter aims to change attitudes around mental health and encourage more organizations to promote mental wellbeing.

Robert Nesbitt, Head of Physical Activity and Sport at SAMH said:

We are proud to work collaboratively with Paths for All to reduce barriers to walking for people and communities.

Recognising the power of walking, together we are creating accessible tools and resources with the Scottish Health Walk Network, so they can continue to play their part in supporting the physical, mental and social health of the people of Scotland.

Gill McShea, Senior Development Officer for the Scottish Health Walk Network said,

The mental health campaign offers the network a range of useful tools and resources to acknowledge, celebrate and enable positive discussions around mental health during Health Walks.

Volunteers and organisers are already doing incredible work to encourage people in their local communities to enjoy regular physical activity, and to enable participants to find, nurture and enjoy valuable connections with one another.

We want to promote and celebrate that Health Walks are suitable for everyone and are great for those who would benefit most from being more active and meeting others: they are a safe, welcoming, inclusive and a local opportunity to walk or wheel with others in a supported way.

For the Scottish Health Walk Network, Scotland’s Mental Health Charter offers members the resources, tools and learning they need to design and deliver Health Walks which are inclusive of those living with mental health problems.

The Scottish Health Walk Network is a membership network which accredits and supports Health Walk providers throughout Scotland. It continues to bring together over 400 organisations with the common goal of creating supportive environments to offer safe, welcoming, accessible walks that meet best practice standards.

Elaine McWilliams is a Group Development Worker at Stepping Stones, a mental health charity supporting people across the West Dunbartonshire area and has been part of the co-working groups supporting Paths for All in developing the campaign.

Elaine said:

We get over 800 referrals every year and currently have 600 active cases and we understand  that one size does not fit all when it comes to providing support.

Walking groups have been part of our services for over 10 years and we have seen it play a massive role in allowing people to be part of a social group and connect with others, allowing people to build confidence.

This campaign is extremely important to help Health Walk organisers to understand how they can help and start open conversations about mental health and wellbeing up and down the country.


Guided by a trained Health Walk Leader and compliment of volunteers, Health Walks encourage and welcome those who haven’t been active for a while and would like to start again; people recovering from ill health, those who are managing a long-term condition, and anyone who has been recommended by a health professional that they would benefit from being more active. Walking side by side as part of a group has been found to encourage people to connect with others but you can also walk without pressure to talk.

Find out more about Health Walks in your local area here.

Find out more about the Scottish Health Walk Network here.

Explore our Walking for Health good news stories here.