Health Walks reduce loneliness and connect communities to nature

A community based health initiative in North Lanarkshire is helping local communities to stay active by delivering regular Health Walks. Jan Dearie shares how taking part has helped to reduce isolation and connect her with her local environment.

Health Walks offer local people the opportunity to connect with others, their community and nature.

In 2021, Jan, a resident of Shotts, North Lanarkshire joined a local Health Walk group delivered by Getting Better Together. Unbeknownst to her at the time, the walks would introduce her to new connections, enjoyments, and an uplift in her wellbeing.

Health Walks are free and welcoming walks generally lasting 30-60 minutes. Commonly taking place weekly, the walks welcome those of all ages and abilities, providing a space to meet new people, get involved in local community work, and stay physically active. We support local community groups with the planning and delivery of over 670 Health Walks across Scotland. 

 Jan says,

I found out about the Health Walks through Getting Better Together and their Facebook page. After hearing staff talk about the Health Walks, I asked for more information.  I decided to start taking part in the walks at the same time with help from Nicola, the Health Walk Leader.

Getting Better Together (GBT) is a community-based health initiative operating from Shotts Healthy Living Centre, North Lanarkshire. GBT work with communities by involving them in the planning and delivery of programmes, services and workshops which improve health, social wellbeing and offer opportunities for local growth and resilience. Included in their offering are a variety of weekly Health Walks for members of the local community and Social Prescribing clients.

Following the pandemic, we are seeing Health Walks restart, with confidence growing in existing and new walkers and Health Walk Leaders to return to their local Health Walks. For some, Health Walks and volunteering offer a lifeline for those who are isolated, live alone or are new to a local community. GBT Health Walks are facilitated by several qualified Walk Leaders with valuable knowledge and experience in health, wellbeing, weight management and physical activity interventions. Joining a local group provides a perfect opportunity to meet new people, make friends and reduce isolation.

Jan explains how joining a walking group has positively contributed to her life. She says,

The main reason I joined was to get me out walking again and meet people in a group. I wasn’t walking the same during lockdown and when I was, I was alone. I am alone enough – I live alone now since my husband died.

Covid intensified the loneliness for me, even though family lived in the nearby village. We used to Facetime a lot, but you miss the physical contact. When you are on your own at home, being out and with company clears your mind, and gives you a good mental health boost.

Health Walks not only offer the opportunity for local people to increase their physical activity, whilst meeting new people on a weekly basis, they offer the opportunity for those interested in volunteering to take part in Health Walk Leader training. Since 2002 we have providing training to over 14,000 volunteers, who, with the confidence and skills gained through our training, successfully deliver Health Walks in their communities.

Jan continues, explaining that the benefits to fitness and wellbeing because of Health Walks are aplenty. She says,

You don’t notice the distance when you walk and chat at same time!  The benefits seem subtle, but they really aren't, I have met a whole new circle of friends. Within that first hour I felt welcomed into their walking circle and chatted the whole way round. Since joining the walking group, I’ve taken part in other activities like lunches and creative workshops.


The walks are a great way to give you a wee kick start to your day, whether it’s sun, wind or just a dull day - they help to clear your head and refreshes you. The physical benefits increase your strength without you even noticing and you gradually find it gets easier and easier to walk the distance, and the pace that you walk doesn’t matter.

Health Walks follow one or several carefully planned and risk assessed routes in both urban and rural areas, guided by a trained Health Walk Leader. These routes can often encompass urban parks, greenspaces and woodland, offering a valuable opportunity for local people, including vulnerable adults and their support workers, to connect with their local environment, and to experience nature in new ways.

Nicola Welsh, Social Prescriber and Health Walk Leader at Getting Better Together says,

It’s a joy to see people improve their physical abilities as well as grow in confidence and make new friendships. The walks are usually intergenerational where there can be 20+ years difference but I have made real friendships within the group and feel it helps to break down negative stereotypes around age.


We have a variety of routes and times to try and accommodate as many people as possible and I would encourage everyone to try the walk, regardless of your financial situation or physical ability, everyone is made to feel welcome and valued and everyone feels better for coming along.

On her experience of connecting with the natural environment, Jan continues,

You notice the wildlife more and the environment as a whole and makes you want to do more to preserve and improve your local community, which lead me to take part in the meetings with Keep Scotland Beautiful. I volunteer in the community garden with Keep Scotland Beautiful, and as you are out and about you realize how beautiful it is. I also got involved with the Community Climate Plan and joined their group. You sometimes just don’t appreciate what's on your doorstep and add to it. 

I’m glad I joined and hadn’t thought about all the benefits until I started writing them down.

Find out more about our Health Walks, and those local to you here.

To explore our volunteering opportunities, click here.