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12 years of making a difference
Published: 16th June 2011
Sheffield Step Out to a Better Lifestyle is one of the longest running WfH schemes in the country. Today, the flourishing scheme puts on 28 walks a week and has more than 80 trained walk leaders.
Since Step Out to a Better Lifestyle began in 1999 it has had a strong medical connection and the scheme now has links with the hospitals' Cardiac Rehabilitation programme, COPD support and mental health services.
Below are two case stories - Bill Barrett (83) and Derek Pickering (84) - regular health walkers with long-term medical conditions. Both are widowers and joined the walks to help them get back on track after the long illnesses and deaths of their wives.
Bill has been walking with the project since June 2005. He came, at the recommendation of his daughter, just two months after his wife died. Joan had cancer and Bill had been her primary carer and her nurse. The long illness meant that Bill was socially very isolated after Joan died compounding his grief.
Initially he found it very hard to come to the walks and to mix with others but he did enjoy being out in the fresh air and felt safe walking amongst a group of people.
Knowing I would be missed if I didn’t attend kept me motivated. Gradually, over a period of a year or so, I found I was beginning to feel a little better and looking forward to coming to the walks and meeting other members.
Through the friends he made on the walks he joined a church community and expanded his network of friends further.
Bill has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) but this doesn’t stop him attending four health walks a week! Bill’s family and his doctor agree that walking regularly is keeping Bill in good shape both physically and mentally.
Derek has been walking with the project since April 2007. His wife had Alzheimer’s and, like Bill, Derek had been a full time carer for a number of years.
Soon after he was widowed Derek moved house, to a new part of Sheffield. He was anxious to ‘get out’ and to ‘keep going’ and discovered the Step out to a Better Lifestyle project when he visited at his local library. He attends two health walks each week and through them has made several very good friends.
Derek has COPD and, like Bill, can be very chesty at times, especially in very cold or windy weather. He is also diabetic.
Derek has developed neuropathy in his feet and hands as a result of the diabetes. This means that he can’t feel his feet as he walks. In many cases this would be the perfect excuse to give up walking altogether. Not our Derek! He walks with a stick in one hand and a lovely lady on his other arm and strides out!
I believe that the health benefits of walking are not about how fast you can walk or how far but about how much enjoyment you get from being out in the fresh air amongst a group of like-minded people.