Unlocking the power of walking

Stories of the life-changing ways walking helped Scots during lockdown is the focus of our new photography-led campaign.

Humans of the Walk features stunning portrait photography and powerful personal accounts of people from across Scotland who found solace in walking while the country was placed on pause for over four months.

The inspirational stories encapsulate the physical and mental benefits walking had on those coping with a variety of challenges during lockdown.

We hope the 10 moving tales will encourage people to keep walking and persuade others to walk more regularly.

Inspired by the famous digital photography project, Humans of New York, the campaign brings to life stories of love, strength, health, family and friendship – and are all connected by one thing: Walking.

One of the 10 individuals, 64-year-old Thomas Ferguson, who only began walking last month after shielding indoors since the start of lockdown, said walking saved his life throughout this period.

He said

Walking has saved me. I could feel myself getting weaker and growing older, and for a period I would struggle to move anywhere without feeling pain in my legs.

Yet, through perseverance and self-intervention I began walking again and I can feel myself recovering physically and mentally – it has been like a medicine for me.

I intend to join a walking group when everything restarts, and if I can't find one near me then I’ll create my own.

In the search for the 10 participants, we asked people to take part in a short survey and share their lockdown walking stories.

Of the 170 who responded, 93% walked during lockdown to look after their physical health, while 85 per cent said they walked to boost their mental health.

The survey also found 77% found walking helped them connect with nature, while 61% explored new paths for the first time.

One of those people was 28-year-old primary school teacher, Lana Robertson who said walking allowed her to escape the pressures of work and venture down routes she had not come across before.

She said:

Just put your shoes on and go out, and see how far you can get. I began feeling claustrophobic while we were stuck in lockdown. My husband and I were both working from home. I spent most of the day looking after our toddler.

We came up with a system where we would take walks separately, allowing one of us to look after our daughter. Walking prevented me from going stir crazy. It allowed me to find a new appreciation for the outdoors and gave me a chance to zone out from the pressures of work.

I am definitely going to continue to take time out of my day to walk more often.

This is our second Humans of the Walk campaign. The first launched in May 2019 to coincide with Edinburgh's first Open Streets event which closed city centre roads to cars to encourage more walking and cycling.

Ian Findlay CBE, our Chief Officer said:

Our 10 participants in this year’s Humans of the Walk campaign have shared their personal challenges through a period of time which have been arduous for us all.

Lockdown has impacted our lives in ways we could not have imagined and these stories highlight how walking can help relieve the worries and stresses we feel every day.

The Humans of the Walk campaign encompasses how walking can improve physical and mental health as well as keeping Scotland happier, healthier, and greener.

To keep the celebration of walking going, Paths for All is giving everyone the chance to win a walking-ready prize bundle worth up to £200.

To enter the competition, members of the public should post a portrait photo celebrating walking in some way, on Twitter or Instagram, using the hashtag #HumansOfTheWalk.

The competition runs until Friday, 18 September and multiple entries are allowed.
For more information visit www.pathsforall.org.uk/humans 

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