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Leisure facilities in Aberdeenshire offering Health Walks

By Kyle Ritchie

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Aberdeenshire Council has trained its leisure staff to deliver Health Walks from the doorsteps of sports centres in a bid to adapt to Covid-19 restrictions and boost local walking programmes.

Live Life Aberdeenshire, which is part of the local authority, teamed up with Paths for All to give staff the opportunity to take part in walk leader and strength and balance training in June last year.

The sessions have given staff the skills and opportunity to lead Health Walks from leisure centres at a time when many facilities had restricted services and some staff faced redeployment.

Claire Wright is the health and wellbeing officer with Live Life Aberdeenshire. She saw an opportunity to capitalise on the recent positive attitudes towards walking and being outdoors during the pandemic.

Aberdeenshire leisure facilities are offering health walks.
Aberdeenshire leisure facilities are offering health walks.

She said: “It was always on the radar that we wished to provide health walks from our facilities to encourage those who would not normally attend activities in our facilities to get involved.

"When we went into lockdown there was a sudden surge in interest in outdoor activities and with this, we saw an opportunity."

Claire Turnbull, Aberdeenshire Health Walks coordinator with Live Life Aberdeenshire, said: “The development for us was about upskilling staff, creating new opportunities, developing the existing health walk programme and adapting to the changes brought on by the pandemic.

"It was planned to help meet the targets and outcomes of Live Life Aberdeenshire’s strategy for physical activity and partnership working with the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership.”

Thirty-eight leisure staff volunteered to take part and successfully completed the training to become a Health Walk leader.

Those trained ranged from pool lifeguards and fitness instructors to catering assistants and hall keepers.

Health Walks now depart from nine leisure facilities across Aberdeenshire, in line with Covid-19 guidelines.

This new initiative has added 18 new Health Walks to the programme, which also includes 30 community ones – promoting everyday walking as a safe and enjoyable way to look after physical and mental wellbeing.

The new Health Walks from facilities include Fit to Walk – a 20-minute walk with a warm up and cool down and finished with some strength and balance exercises; Walk Well – a walk lasting up to an hour; and Buggy Walks lasting up to an hour for mums, dads or carers with little ones in buggies or slings.

They are free and accessible to all regardless of age, ability or health status, the walking routes are risk assessed and start and finish from a leisure facility.

Turriff was an area in Aberdeenshire with no Health Walk provision prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now weekly walks depart from there.

Community leisure officer and manager of Turriff Sports Centre Stuart Grant said: "We viewed the Paths for All training as an opportunity to start delivering sessions which would welcome people to our facilities and would be suitable for anyone to attend.

"Knowing the impact lockdown had on people’s mental and physical health, the opportunity to join an instructor-led walking session was an attractive one to offer to the community of Turriff and District.

“We hoped that this would lead to participants actively seeking additional activities through the centre. Some of those attending have now progressed to attending some of our other activities, helping generate income for the facility too.”

For information about Aberdeenshire Health Walks visit www.livelifeaberdeenshire.org.uk/live-life-well/health-and-wellbeing-programmes/aberdeenshire-health-walks

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