2020 was a very different and challenging year for many. We started our year for the Walk It project not knowing the challenges that would lie ahead.
At the end of March 2020, we paused our Health Walks and started working from home under Government lockdown guidelines.
It became almost a new normal. During this time, we tried several new ways of communicating and engaging with our groups using online platforms. There was an overwhelming number of people experiencing social isolation and a decline in their physical activity. Several challenges were organised to keep people engaged and active throughout lockdown including:
We ran a virtual Walking Challenge using the World of Walking platform to keep people motivated to log their daily steps. Our combined team efforts during 2020 were nearly 4 million steps or 3,936,763 to be precise.
We were delighted to continue our volunteer training programme online.
At the end of August 2020 when Health Walks were allowed to resume, we welcomed the return of 60% of our groups.
Noticeably, we had an increase in the number of referrals to our project. In November 2020 I was delighted to launch our Buddy Walking 1-1 programme in response to this demand.
This allowed us to take referrals from a wide range of partners and individuals, which then allowed volunteers to support an individual to get out and walk. Many of these referrals came from those who had a long-term health condition (mental and physical), those who were isolated and those who had a dementia diagnosis. We took 17 referrals in the first month alone, all of whom we matched with a Walk Leader.
Our aim with this project is to target those with a health condition, those who are isolated, those wishing to increase their levels of physical activity and those who would like to join a walking group but don't quite feel ready.
Hopefully, over time the person will gain confidence, ability, and physical fitness to then join a mainstream group.
We actively promote this service within the Walk It network. Its success is a testament to the volunteers, with feedback stating how much they have enjoyed the experience, made new social connections, and continued to get fitter as well.
In particular, I have had excellent feedback from those with a dementia diagnosis that have taken part, with one person already joining a mainstream group and others really enjoying the safety and level of knowledge of their buddy.
Thank you to Walk It project coordinator Denise Carmichael, with Scottish Borders Council, for reflecting on Health Walks during the current pandemic.
Find out more about Walk It and their programme of Health Walks on our website.