Neilston Development Trust, located in Neilston’s 'The Bank', has been bringing members from the local communities of Neilston and Barrhead together for a range of weekly activities since 2014. Of these is the Neilston ‘Youth’ Group. Whilst we highly encourage the involvement of young people in Health Walks, Neilston ‘Youth’ Group rallies a small group of stalwart locals between the ages of 50 and 75.
At Paths for All, we support the delivery of over 670 Health Walks across Scotland, providing urban and rural communities with no less than a lifeline. For those who are inactive, experience chronic ill health or live alone, Health Walks offer a safe, welcoming, and valuable opportunity to stay active, make friends and build confidence. This is more important now than ever, as our Health Walks restart after the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Walks across Scotland are using our Strength and Balance programme, which recommends simple exercises with advice on walking to help adults stay active and independent. These exercises can also be done on a walk or from the comfort of your home to build confidence in movement and improve strength and flexibility in the joints and muscles.
Many of those attending the weekly sessions are regulars of between four and nine years. Most of the group live alone, and hail from the local communities of Neilston and Barrhead. Having joined by word-of-mouth, they all recognise and value the chance to meet others locally and enjoy one another’s company.
Ivy Cowan, a long-time volunteer Health Walker Leader of about eight years recognises the benefits that the Strength and Balance programme, coupled with walking can have on the health and wellbeing of those attending.
Ivy, a keen walker herself, takes a playful but strong role in directing the exercises which have been developed over time to benefit an older audience. As a testament to her dedication to the group, the exercises have been adapted from a range of simple yoga poses, gentle fitness routines adapted from Joe Wicks exercise plans and our very own Strength and Balance exercises with the help of our expert trainer, Sine Delahunt.
When I first suggested offering Strength and Balance Training for our Walk Volunteers, Ivy was the first Volunteer to contact me to say she wanted to take part, as she knew how much local people could benefit from a weekly exercise opportunity.
Due to Ivy’s enthusiasm in leading the group, they have adapted and added to their programme, which involves everyone, and they all enjoy it so much.
Ivy coordinates a weekly 45–60-minute Strength and Balance session with the group followed by a 30–60-minute Health Walk around the village. The session comprises a range of standing and seated exercises for building strength in the muscles, improving posture, flexibility and balance to increase confidence in movement. The sessions have been adapted to help increase walker mobility and functional fitness and are particularly beneficial to those in the group who experience restrictive or chronic illnesses. Most importantly, members are encouraged to go at their own pace.
One walker, Margaret, is well known in the community for her early morning walks. She spoke of new concerns over balance, preferring to walk in nearby neighbourhoods where she can call on friends and locals she knows in the event of a fall. Taking part in the weekly Strength and Balance sessions have helped Margaret to build confidence in her ability to keep moving.
Members of the group, whilst taking a most welcomed rest, share their thoughts and experiences on how coming together as a group has benefitted not only their physical health, but mental and social wellbeing. There is a spiritual wellbeing aspect to their sessions, providing an inspiring and well-rounded morning for the group. Ivy leads a short meditation session, which focuses on breathing and visualisation, whilst another member of the group, also named Margaret, recites a poem entitled ‘Bluebell Woods’ by Elizabeth Mason. The group's Health Walk will later circumnavigate the village of Neilston itself, and passes through bluebell woods of its own.
Neilston ‘Youth’ Group is just one of many groups across Scotland integrating Strength and Balance exercises into their weekly Health Walks, offering a perfect example of the positive benefits to mental, physical and social wellbeing being enjoyed in the local community.
Find your local Health Walk here.
Explore our Strength and Balance exercises here.