Walking back to happiness

Nordic Walking for Mental Health Awareness Week ()

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is taking place from 9-15 May, with loneliness the focus of this year’s campaign. 

The Alliance is supporting the campaign to raise awareness of loneliness this week, and has been working with British Nordic Walking to demonstrate the benefits of sport and recreation on wellbeing. With National Walking Month also taking place during May, it is the perfect opportunity to highlight the benefits of the activity.

Read on for a blog written by British Nordic Walking National Coach, Catherine Hughes, who discusses loneliness and Nordic Walking in more depth.

The last two years have been difficult. Covid restrictions, such as social distancing, meant that people have been stuck indoors. Worrying about mixing led to a resurgence in walking and we discovered we felt better for it. As our lives start to fill back up, how many of us will build on that habit?

At the beginning of National Walking Month and Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to talk to you about the benefits of Nordic Walking. This low impact exercise is suitable for all ages and abilities. Using poles to propel you not only spreads the effort, but also engages 90% of your muscles - much more effective than walking.

How does Nordic Walking help with mental health and reduce loneliness? Novices need to have lessons from an INWA instructor to learn the special technique.  Classes are outdoors and low impact, meaning that people fall naturally into conversation. With no music to compete with and a moderate pace, a Nordic walking class seems the perfect place for a natter.  The supportive chat continues afterwards over coffee, and often via social media groups too. 

Silverfit’s Eddie Brocklesby said, ‘People continue to attend (Nordic Walking) classes not for the exercise, but for the camaraderie.” Instructors find that people chat as they walk, getting to know each other and building support networks.

Loneliness is a silent epidemic with 45% of adults feeling lonely. Three Valleys Nordic Walking were determined to tackle this problem. Their regular walks meant that people come along, meet new people and improve their mood. Targeted at people who were isolated by the loss of a partner or by long-term health conditions, the project made a big impact locally.

British Nordic Walking Instructor Vicky Welsh reports that for those anxious about exercising, Nordic Walking poles provide support, boost confidence, and help build self-esteem.  In her 2021 national survey on Nordic Walking and mental wellbeing, 95% of respondents said Nordic Walking improved their mood and over 80% said it reduced their stress levels.

Nordic Walking graph ()

One walker said, “Nordic Walking has had a huge influence on my posture and confidence in walking outside. Previously, the door was slowly closing on all activities outside. With that came a huge feeling that life was coming to an end and would be spent indoors. Learning Nordic Walking has reversed that totally.”

Nordic Walking ()

For more information on how to set up a community Nordic Walking group, please contact info@britishnordicwalking.org.uk, call 01332 504949 or visit www.britishnordicwalking.org.uk.

Across the week don’t forget to check out the incredible amount of support available. The Mental Health Foundation has a wide range of resources to help you celebrate the week, including social media graphics, posters and pin badges. 

The Alliance is a member of the Government's Tackling Loneliness Network and is committed to showcasing the power of sport and recreation to promote mental wellbeing through physical activity. We recently published a report alongside Mind and the Professional Players Federation to highlight the progress made across sport and recreation since the launch of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation seven years ago.