Walking for Health

Group walking, Woman walking dog, Group walking, Family walking

The Walking for Health programme was established in 2001 and continues to be an integral part of Government policy to address the health and wellbeing of the population in Northern Ireland. The programme is delivered through HSC Trusts across Northern Ireland and is supported by the Public Health Agency. Walking for Health aims to encourage inactive people to increase their level of physical activity by participating in local led health walks.

Walk Leaders are key to the success of Walking for Health in Northern Ireland and they have a unique and valuable contribution to make to health improvement, complementing the work of Health and Social Care staff.

The training manual supports the Walk Leader training course and covers the issues a Walk Leader would need to know to plan, organise and deliver safe and effective health walks.

  • The leaflet gives some basic information on the Walking for Health programme and the Walk Leader training course. Click here to access the leaflet.
  • The role description gives specific details on all aspects of a Walk Leader’s role, including tasks and duties, walk locations, training and support, supervision and accountability. Click here to access the role description.
  • The poster is used by Walk Leaders to advertise the health walks they take in their area. It allows members of the public to contact the Walk Leaders directly, giving them a chance to ask any questions they may have. Click here to access the poster.
  • The cue card acts as a checklist for Walk Leaders to ensure they follow all the appropriate safety procedures and other guidelines for each health walk they take. Click here for the cue  cards.
  • A training manual and certificate is awarded to all those who successfully attend Walk Leader training.

All Walk Leaders are provided with training, networking opportunities, and advice and support on establishing, promoting and running successful walking groups.

Group of people walking

  • Why Walk?

    Walking is the near perfect activity to improving health and wellbeing.  Walking for Health is aimed at adults who don’t do any/or enough activity to benefit health and well-being.

    Health walks are suitable for people of all ages and abilities, and not only promote the physical health benefits of being active, but encourage positive mental health and social interaction.

    Research confirms that adults and older people should participate in two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, and that all adults should aim to do some physical activity each day.  Walking on a regular basis can really help you meet this physical activity target and is an ideal activity for most people as it can be done anytime, any place with friends, family members or work colleagues. Walking is free, fun and has huge benefits for your health & well-being.

    Regular walking at a *moderate intensity can:

    • Make you feel good
    • Give you more energy
    • Reduce stress and help you sleep better
    • Keep your heart ‘strong’ and reduce blood pressure
    • Help manage your weight
    • Reduce the risk of heart disease
    • Reduce the risk of a number of cancers, particularly bowel and breast cancer
    • Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
    • Improve your mood and reduces the risk of depression

    *Moderate intensity = breathing a bit faster, feeling a bit warmer and heart beating a bit faster – you should still be able to hold a conversation while you walk!

    According to government guidelines, adults need to undertake at least 150 minutes of *moderate intensity activity per week.  That’s 30 minutes of activity, five days a week.

    If it’s too difficult to walk for 30 minutes at one time, do regular small bouts ( 3 x 10 minutes or 2 x 15 minutes) and gradually build up to longer sessions.  Physical activity built into a daily lifestyle plan is also one of the most effective ways to assist with weight loss and keep weight off once it’s lost.

    Some suggestions to build walking into your daily routine may include:

    • Taking the stairs instead of the lift (for at least part of the way).
    • Getting off public transport one stop earlier and walking to work or home.
    • Walking (not driving) to local shops.
    • Walking the dog (or your neighbour’s dog!).

    Walking is low impact, requires little equipment, can be done at any time of day and can be performed at your own pace.  You can get out and walk without worrying about the risks associated with some more vigorous forms of exercise.  Walking is also a great form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly or who haven’t been active in a long time. Walking for fun and fitness isn’t limited to strolling by yourself, there are various walking groups you can join in local areas throughout South Eastern Trust.

    Walking For Health website: www.walkingforhealth.org.uk

    Physical Activity Guidelines: www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-physical-activity-guidelines

  • Walk Leader Training

    Walk Leader training is FREE and available to anyone aged 18 and over wishing to lead health walks in their local community or workplace.  Walk Leaders are vital to the success of many walking programmes.

    Those interested in leading local walking groups complete a Walk Leader training course delivered by the South Eastern Trust (SET) Health Development Department which enables them to lead groups on health walks in their local community.  Trained Walk Leaders are then offered insurance cover, promotional materials, and support to organise walking groups through their workplace, church or community group.  Walk Leader network meetings are held twice per year in each locality across SET for leaders to connect and learn from each other’s experience.

    Group of women and men sitting around a table

    Click here to download our Walking Leaflet.

    Walk leader training directory

    Walk leader training booking form

    Dates for Walk Leader training can be found in Health Development Training Directory or contact Health Development Department Tel: (028) 9250 1373

    Email: health.development@setrust.hscni.net

    Group of women an dmen sitting around a table at a training session

  • 'Spring' Into Feeling Good

    Bright Spring days are upon us, with beautiful blooms of daffodils & tulips growing tall and vibrant.

    At this time of year we look forward to being able to go out for a nice walk following the long dark days of winter.

    Walking not only helps keep us fit, but also can boost our energy levels and improve our mood.  It has many other health benefits such as helping reduce blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight and improving our sleep.

    Our Walking For Health programme aims to encourage people to increase their level of physical activity by participating in local health walks led by trained Walk Leaders.  The route and length of walks are designed to suit the ability of walkers, and all walkers are supported and encouraged to walk at their own pace.  At times when walkers may be out in the sunshine for prolonged periods, Walk Leaders reinforce the importance of wearing the correct clothing and use of sun screen as well as hydrating the body.

    Walkers are also encouraged to walk independently between group meetings in order to achieve the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity for adults aged 19-64 years each week.

    Simple walking really is the like taking a ‘magic pill’ as it has so many health benefits, in particular the feel good factor.  So why not get out for a walk and ‘Spring’ into feeling good!

  • Walking Group Posters

    There are a number of Walking for Health walking groups across South Eastern Trust (SET) area:

    Ards and North Down


    Lisburn and Colin

  • #WalkThisMay

    May is national walking month and we encourage everyone to walk more, whether it’s within walking groups, through active travel, short walks or walking more in the office, strut your stuff and get out there. Walking has huge benefits to health, and walking in greenspace and parks is even better.

    So join in with #WalkThisMay, by sharing your walking photos on all social media platforms using hashtags #WalkThisMay and #setwalkingforhealth.

    Simply print off the  #WalkThisMay banner and use it as promotion in your photos during the month of May. If you don’t use social media, use the banner for photos and forward to Wendy.McDowell2@setrust.hscni.net to be included in South Eastern Trust and partners social media platforms/website.

    Tips for walking more – Check out our May Walking Calendar.

  • A Walk Leader Testimony

    I discovered walking shortly after I retired!  My mother told me that I started walking at ten months and between that age and 60, I did walk but it wasn’t something that seemed important in my life.

    After I retired I joined a walking group and started going out with them every other Monday.  I met new people and walked several miles each time in lovely locations many of which were new to me. The walks took a few hours and we picnicked on the way.

    I was aware that a new group had started in Moira for over 50s and that they had a walking section.  I thought however that the group was only for ‘old people‘ – one never considers oneself to be in this group!  I heard that they did just an hour’s walk and I arranged for my 90 year old mother to join – she had recently moved to the area, to join. People were lovely to her.

    Partly to support my aged mother I joined the Moira Friendship myself and it was one of the best things that I ever did. As a blow-in to the village I knew few people.

    When I was working I left my little box every Monday to Friday and drove to Belfast in an even smaller box.  In months I got to know more people through Moira Friendship that I had got to know in the previous twenty years.

    I heard more about the walking group, that there were different groups – the striders, the strollers and the stragglers who did walks of different lengths and at different speeds.  I tried it and loved striding.  Walking fast with the striders for an hour was quite sufficient challenge for me and like everyone I enjoyed the coffee and scones afterwards.

    Quite soon the chairman of the group asked me if I would train as a walk leader and I readily agreed. It was only at the course that I fully realised that we were part of the Walking for Health programme though I had been aware of the health benefits.  After training I wasn’t thrown in the deep end since the programme for the year had already been arranged.  However I attended the Walk Leaders’ meeting the following year and since then have been leading walks regularly.

    I have got a lot out of Moira Friendship and the walking group in particular. Fortunately I’m still able to stride!  I find that walking fast for an hour definitely has health benefits but the social side is equally important.  I also like the fact that I am now able to put something back in to the group that has given me so much.  I am happy to be the main leader for walks, which entails a considerable amount of responsibility. Being a member of the other walking group has meant that I have been able to cross fertilise, and over the years have introduced several new walks to the programme.

    I summed a talk that I was asked to give about walking by slightly adapting the first two lines of the song that was sung by Helen Shapiro:

    “I’ve walked back to happiness. Said goodbye to loneliness”

    Grace McCullough
    Moira Friendship Group

    August 2017