Tag Archives: walking

Walking for wellbeing

In September we’re encouraging people to get active and take part in our Steptember event! The event may be called Steptember, but walking isn’t the only way to reach your daily step count. You can run, wheel, cycle, swim or even dance your way to glory. If you use a wheelchair, here’s some inspiration for you.

Guest post from Bonnie Friend, writer for Walk magazine

There is an awful lot in the news at the moment on the power of walking for improved health. It’s a great way to lose weight, gentle on the joints, and gets you out into the fresh air.

What is sometimes overlooked though is the impact that it can have on psychological wellbeing, and speaking to members of the Ramblers and Disabled Ramblers, the potency of that becomes a striking reality.

Walk magazine spoke to one lady who was able to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through walking and a man who, after 20 years suffering with depression, declared that the best antidote he has found is to garner the courage to head out for a stroll along the Pennine Way.

It is not to say that walking is going to be the complete answer to every problem, but in a world where we struggle to find solutions to complex issues, it is reassuring to know that something as simple as a walk can provide untold comfort.

Where this becomes a whole lot trickier however, is where mobility poses an extra obstacle, and this is what the people at Disabled Ramblers have been working tirelessly to rectify.

There are thousands of miles of tracks and footpaths around the UK, and only a fraction of them are currently as accessible as they could be. Predominantly in national parks such as the Malvern Hills.

John Cuthbertson, Director of Disabled Ramblers is passionate about initiatives that look to remove or find alternatives to manmade barriers such as steps, stiles and gates that limit accessibility for anyone with a disability.

Another part of their work sees the categorization of walking routes for their accessibility level, and the organization of around 50 nationwide group walks each year. They have a number of specialised mobility scooters (Trampers) available to borrow and group walks see around 20-30 people participating each time alongside 15-25 carers. Details are carefully adhered to in order to make the experience as easy as possible for anyone wanting to join, such as the inclusion of a mobile toilet transported on a trailer.

The upshot of this careful organisation is something that has an indisputably positive outcome. “We have a guy with Motor Neurone Disease who joins us and is adamant that the walks have extended his lifespan,” says John, continuing: “the big things that people experience are good company, meeting like-minded individuals, and a big change in both psychological and physical wellbeing as a result of being able to get out into their beloved countryside.”

As one walker said, “when I reach somewhere beautiful and look around I can’t help but think it would make anyone smile.” If nothing else, that seems like a pretty perfect reason to give it a try.

Has this inspired you? Sign up to Steptember and get out there to explore! 

Zimmer frames are the invention of the devil! – #100days100stories

Fear of falling, social invisibility and Zimmer frames. Valerie Lang, 75, discusses the realities of being older and disabled. She shares her story as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign

A portrait of Valerie Lang, 75, smiling.

I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby and started to walk unaided when I was six. My walking was inelegant but functional. Unlike many of my class mates, I was spared the horror of callipers. The children who wore them were so terrified of falling over in them that few, if any, learned to walk at school.

As a child, I was fearless. When I did fall, I was small enough to not do any serious damage. I would scramble to my feet and be up again in seconds.

I loved the freedom that walking gave me. I still do.

Help when I needed it

As a young adult, I studied and worked in London. If I fell over in the street, people would always stop and help me up. I’ve fallen in the middle of busy roads, landed in a heap at the top of a tube escalator, and been thrown from the back of route master buses. On each occasion, someone was always there to ask if I was OK.

Today, as an older disabled woman, I have become totally invisible. On the street, people ignore me, walk in front of me… some nearly walk into me, but fortunately they don’t because my mobility scooter would hurt them.

I’ve been on my hands and knees on the pavement clearing up after my dog and people will just walk past. They don’t stop to think why a grey haired old woman is kneeling on the footpath. That didn’t happen 30 years ago.

The bubble society

We live in a ‘bubble society’. So many people on the streets today are on their mobile phones, or in a rush to be somewhere else. It is as if we are all hermetically sealed into our own private little plastic bubble. We don’t have the time or space to think about the people around us.

I also wonder whether people are afraid of doing the wrong thing, and perhaps getting sued. Or it could just be that health and safety has won out and that people are no longer willing to take a risk.
Whatever the reason, it leaves me even more reluctant to walk anywhere unaided.

Fear of falling

As I’ve got older, I’ve learned that confidence matters far more than physical ability. I broke my ankle some years ago, just falling sideways from my own height. That accident shattered my confidence. If I do fall now, I can’t get up by myself. Today, when I leave the house, I’m all too aware of the potential dangers.

Unfortunately confidence cannot be summoned up at will. I have stood at the side of my car, looking at the six foot gap to my garden hand rail, and muttering to myself ‘don’t be an idiot,’ but I can’t take the first step. The fear would cause me to fall.

The art of walking

My mum always believed that if I only concentrated totally on how I was walking, I could learn to walk perfectly. I never did because I am unable to give full attention on placing my feet carefully for more than a few paces. I am much more interested in what I am about to do.

I use a trolley to help me balance and get around when I’m walking. I think that zimmer frames are the invention of the devil. To shackle old people to such clumsy objects is cruel. Turning 90 degrees requires one to pick the wretched thing up and move it round a bit, at least eight times. It is enough to put anyone off trying to walk. As with wheelchairs, anyone dispensing them should be made to use one first, for at least a week.

A step backwards?

I was lucky to be young in the 60s. In spite of the equalities legislation that has come in since, I was walking – albeit unsteadily – in a narrow gap in history when the few disabled people who were out and about, found society to be less judgemental than it may have been through history, and sadly seems to be now.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.

Why did Valerie campaign to change the name of The Spastics Society to Scope?