1 September 2014

City walking scheme wins Royal seal of approval!

Brighton & Hove City Council’s Healthwalks scheme has won a prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service; the highest accolade possible for organisations that provide services that are led by volunteers. The scheme was nominated by a local Healthwalker and a Volunteer Healthwalk Leader in recognition of the positive changes the scheme had made on their lives and the lives of others. The award is to be presented to workers, volunteers and walkers from the scheme by the Queen’s regional representative; The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex; at a special presentation at Brighton Town Hall this week on Thursday 4 September.

Funded by the city council, Brighton & Hove Healthwalks has provided a programme of free walks across the city for over ten years. On average over 1,000 people walk with Healthwalks every year, exploring the many fantastic parks and green spaces the city has to offer. These walkers have reached a combined walk total of 250,000 miles over the last decade – that’s the equivalent of walking to the moon! The walks are designed to be accessible to even the most inactive and unfit people and those with health conditions. The walks start at under a mile in length and are clearly graded in terms of difficulty/terrain etc. Over the last decade the scheme has trained over 300 Volunteer Walk Leaders who have given, as a team, 30,000 hours of their time providing over 6,000 free walks.

Regular walkers have reaped a range of benefits including coming off medication, beating depression, losing weight, and making life-long new friends. As alarming statistics continue to emerge of the public health crisis caused by increases in health conditions related to inactive lifestyles, walking is being increasingly promoted as one of the most effective and safe forms of exercise there is. It can halve the risk of heart attack and stroke, halve the risk of developing some cancers and reduce the risk of dementia by up to a third. Taking this into account, the scheme is likely to have saved many lives over the years as well as led to significant savings for the local NHS.

The scheme was set up as part of Walking for Health in 2003 and for the last eight years has been funded by the Sports Development and Public Health departments of Brighton & Hove City Council. It provides a programme of free walks twice a year, including 16 weekly walks and a calendar of special and themed monthly walks.

More information and a copy of the new Led Walks Programme can be found at: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/leisure-and-libraries/sports-and-activity/healthwalks