Strength and Balance exercises on Health Walks
Trained volunteers with Scottish Health Walk Network project - Walk in the Park, offer free Strength and Balance sessions in rural communities across Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
The exercises strengthen muscles and improve balance. They are popular and important for those with impaired mobility through illness or age, to gain physical, mental, and social enrichment. The locality of the groups is also vital to those who find it harder to travel to Stirling for therapy and exercise in a physiotherapy unit.
There is a mix of volunteers. Some have been demonstrating the exercises for over six years with another recently trained, in early 2020, after being referred by their GP to the classes after having a series of falls.
If it weren’t for the Strength and Balance sessions, I would be walking with a zimmer frame.
Strength and Balance exercises at home
Due to the pandemic lockdown and restrictions from March 2020, the weekly sessions had to cease, and walkers had to rely on either instruction leaflets or videos to carry on the exercises alone, which the project coordinator had sent to them.
The volunteers and participants lost out on the social interaction and community connection, as well as the physical benefits of the classes.
Volunteers felt they had lost the feeling of giving something back and the opportunity to put their training into practice.
Virtual Strength and Balance exercises
The project coordinator set up weekly live Zoom sessions to allow members to join the exercise classes from home. Volunteers continued leading the Zoom classes, which they did despite being very unsure of computer technology.
Volunteers were trained and practised with the project coordinator, who shadowed their first sessions online to increase confidence with delivery to a virtual audience.
As a result, volunteers have now led nearly 20 weekly sessions for up to 16 regular members. It has allowed them to reconnect with their community, as well as those from other communities who take part virtually. Volunteers have seen their confidence in delivery increase as onscreen leaders.
One volunteer has noticed that since taking part and delivering Strength and Balance exercises, she herself has not had a fall for several years now.
These valuable classes would not be possible without the support and commitment of the volunteers who stepped up to become Zoom demonstrators when needed most. The volunteers agree that they have a feeling of great achievement from what they have done.
When we get in that room, we have a ball – I love being with people and making a difference with such a simple skill.
Thank you to Fran Crumley for sharing Walk in the Park’s Strength and Balance activities. Read more about how the project has adapted their activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
New walkers are welcome to join Walk in the Park's Health Walks.
Find out more online.