An evaluation of the Walking for Wellness project and the befriender role (NECR118)

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When Walking for Health was launched in 2000 walking was not considered a serious form of exercise. Now the health benefits of short, regular, brisk walks are widely understood. The Department of Health considers that health walks can be a way of increasing people’s levels of physical activity and improving their health.
In 2007, Department of Health and Natural England working in partnership with local statutory and voluntary organisations took the decision to invest in an expansion of Walking for Health as part of the package of public health initiatives aimed at getting people more active.
As part of the Walking for Health expansion a programme of evaluation was established. The aims of the programme were to evaluate, quantitatively and qualitatively, both health and environmental outcomes from the Walking for Health intervention. To deliver the breadth and depth of evaluation Natural England has worked with research and academic partners.
This report by Leeds Metropolitan University was supported by a small grant from Natural England. Walking for Health is a physical activity intervention with the primary purpose of making a positive difference to people’s physical health. However, it is also recognised that group nature of the activity can also benefit people’s mental health and wellbeing.
This report presents research findings from a pilot project in Northumbria that sought to extend access to Walking for Health to people with mental health needs through the concept of the befriender role.

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