Health Walk volunteer instils community spirit through decade of dedication

70-year-old Ruth McDonogh has committed her time and energy to bringing community members together through walking.

Members of the Tongue Walking Group during a regular Health Walk

For the last decade, Ruth has served time as a Walk Coordinator for the Tongue Walking Group, based in Tongue, Northwest Highland, where she helps lead free weekly Health Walks for people of all ages and abilities. Her dedication and volunteering efforts have offered members of the local community the invaluable opportunity to come together, enjoy physical activity, whilst fighting social isolation in rural communities.

Health Walks like the Tongue Walking Group are free, welcoming and friendly spaces available to those of all abilities, including wheelchair users, those living with disabilities and long-term health conditions. Lasting 30-60 minutes, Health Walks often follow a range of risk assessed, local routes lead by trained volunteer Walk Leaders, like Ruth.

Ruth said:

Being a part of a walking group isn’t just for the health benefits, it gives everyone an opportunity to socialise and provides people with support when they might be struggling.

We have helped each other through bereavement, difficult times and have provided people with a safe space to chat. We have also celebrated happy times together with birthdays and cake featuring regularly!

It is very rewarding to see people make positive progression in their walking. In the first week they might only be able walk 100 yards, and the next week they go for 200 yards. It makes me proud to be a part of a group that can support someone no matter their ability and help improve their health.

For me, being a Walk Coordinator allows me the opportunity to make connections and links throughout the community which I otherwise wouldn’t have made. Each week, I learn something new from a fellow walker – whether it's about local wildlife, history, or more."

Montage of images showing members of the Tongue WG

A growing number of walking groups can be found all over Scotland, dedicated to supporting the most inactive people to engage in walking, wheeling and active travel. With many walks having now restarted after the pandemic, Health Walks offer a special opportunity - and often a vital lifeline - for local people to  make friends and enjoy regular, gentle physical activity within their capabilities.

For individuals like Ruth, embarking on a volunteering journey offers a unique and exciting chance to develop new skills, knowledge and experience, reduce social isolation, and build confidence whilst giving back to their local community. A large variety of roles exist to choose from, depending on your background and desires, including Health Walk route planners, Walk Leaders and Publicity Volunteers.

Shining a spotlight on walking and wheeling champions like Ruth can encourage like-minded individuals to consider volunteering and inspire more people in communities across Scotland to walk or wheel every day, everywhere. The benefits of moving more, alone, are a driving factor in those venturing into the world of volunteering. 

We support the Scottish Health Walk Network (SHWN) to plan and deliver over 850 regular Health Walks across Scotland, with over 14,000 dedicated volunteers leading and assisting the groups. This includes offering the necessary training for those wishing to embark on a new journey, and supporting their local Health Walks to be welcoming, inclusive and accessible.

Find out more about being a Walk Leader, or volunteering here

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