Funding secured to expand Walking to Health project

Aberdeenshire Change Fund is to provide more than £62,000 over the next two years for health walking projects throughout Aberdeenshire.

The Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust (COAT) has been awarded £14,000 to expand their Walking to Health Project in Aberdeenshire.

The project is aimed at people, mainly in rural communities who have become isolated through poor health or old age. Many of whom will be referred to the group by their GPs or health workers.

The Walking to Health Project has increased levels of physical activity among participants; helped sustain higher levels of physical activity and made a positive contribution to reducing social isolation.

There are currently 19 health walks organised by COAT in Aberdeenshire including in Braemar, Ballater, Logie Coldstone, Strathdon, Alford, Tarland, Aboyne, Glen Tanar, Lumphanan, Torphins and Huntly.

The funding will be used to further increase participation in the project and expand the availability of health walks across rural Aberdeenshire.

Health Walk Co-ordinator for Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust, Alan Melrose, said: “The project has already delivered significant physical and mental health improvements for health walk participants.

“There is clear evidence of social and personal development for walkers and it is regarded as an invaluable contribution to communities in Aberdeenshire.”

NHS Grampian Health Co-ordinator Freda Nicolson added: “Walking is the perfect exercise and requires no special equipment or expense. Walking is the ideal way for most people to enjoy the many benefits of being physically active, whilst enjoying our spectacular scenery.”

Funding has also been awarded to the Grampian 50+ Network for their walking groups.

The money will be used to develop links with health walks, such as those provided by COAT, so people can continue joining in organised walks when they have reached the required fitness to move on from the health walks.

Grampian 50+ Network was set up in 1998 following development work carried out by Grampian Region Community Development & Outdoor staff. The Network has 32 groups in membership across Aberdeenshire which collectively have around 1100 members.

Their walks also take them further afield than Aberdeenshire. The Mintlaw 50+ walking group recently returned from a walking holiday in the Black Forest area in Germany.

Chair of Social Work and Housing Committee, Karen Clark, said: “There are many health walks across Aberdeenshire and with this funding more people will be able to access them. The walks are short, safe, social, local walks which are often led by volunteers and can change people’s lives.

“By working together with local health and social care practitioners the organisers of these health walks ensure they are more effective and targeted at the people who need them the most.”

Vice-Chair of Social Work and Housing Committee, Councillor Alisan Norrie, added: “This funding will ensure that the projects will continue to deliver health improvement for people in rural areas which will allow more people to enjoy longer, healthier, happier lives.”