As we continue on the Government roadmap for re-opening the country we take a look at Virtual Walking Group possibilities. As Coid19 restrictions begin to ease it is an opportunity for you to reconnect with your walking group members. Many of them may have been less active and more sedentary than normal over the past few weeks therefore it is very important to start aiming to reach the National Physical Activity guidelines (30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least 5 days per week) in order to gain general health benefits and strengthening our immunities.
Virtual Walking Groups can be connected via various apps and platforms such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook or even text messaging!
- Encourage members to walk individually in their own areas at the same day and time as original walking group met.
- Each week/fortnight propose a different theme - e.g. Nature, Historical, Mindfulness, Physical task etc.
- Ask Group members to share their walk experiences, descriptions and photos each week/fortnight with the rest of the group.
Nature–suggest a scavenger hunt; instead of looking for pre-hidden objects, task group members to look for certain plants, animals, and objects found in nature along their walking route. Another suggestion is to ask group members to share photos of scenery encountered along their walk.
Historical – ask group members to share interesting historical facts /stories about their walking routes/area.
Mindfulness – suggest to group members to do a walking meditation; simply advise them to adopt a slow pace that allows them to notice their breath and movement. When their walk starts, ask them to bring their attention to their body and, tune into their breath by listening to the rhythm of their exhalations and inhalations and start to pay attention to their steps.As they do, notice how their feet feel as they hit the ground.
Walking intervals; this involves switching between slow, regular and fast-paced walking and can be undertaken in a number of different ways; i) Time: Walk slowly for 3 minutes, moderately for 2 minutes, fast for 1 minute, then start again ii) Landmarks: Change your speed every time you hit a specific landmark, i.e.trees, ESB poles,etc.iii)Terrain: Speed upon short hills & moderate or slow pace between the inclines.
Beat the Clock – if some group members are walking the same route for a few weeks suggest that they time how long it takes for them to complete it. Then see if they can finish the next walk just a little bit faster. Seeing their progress over time can be motivating
Strength exercises - if group members are comfortable suggest doing exercises that will strengthen their muscles and bones whilst on their walk. You could suggest curb step-ups, walking lunges, squats; plan to do one exercise every three to five minutes of their walk.
Walking group members could meet outside in small groups of up to four (at all times adhering to Government Protocols and Public Health guidelines) They could form a mini/sub walking group and then also link in virtually with the larger walking group.
Some Practical Tips for walking during these times
If some walking group members decide to walk together there may be some risk involved; therefore it is important to remember that walking over the next few weeks/months will be different to their usual walks. It is very easy to become complacent while out on a walk and connecting with others again. Below are a few points we should all consider while out walking as part of a group again:
• If possible start your walk from your own house - normally, walkers would be encouraged to use public transport or to offer lifts to other members when possible to get to their walk, however, for the time being this is no longer recommended.
• Choose walking routes where you can achieve the recommended physical distancing requirement from other walkers. Avoid walking during busy times when crowds might form; perhaps consider early morning or late afternoon meet ups?
• When you meet up, remember that you should not shake hands with others.
• Avoid stopping to speak with other walkers, but if you do so, observe the physical distancing requirement.
• Each walker should bring their own bottle of hand sanitising gel and use before and after the walk. While out walking, our hands may come into contact with bollards, walls, benches etc. - clean your hands using the gel immediately after you touch any surface.
• Each walker should bring their own bottle of water for their use only and should not pass to other group members.
• If you are taking photos along the walk route use your own mobile. If you want a photo of yourself, take a selfie or ask a friend to take the photo using their mobile and they can send it to your mobile.
• Continue to practice good respiratory hygiene; cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Use the nearest waste bin to dispose of the tissue and use your hand sanitiser directly after.
• Please stay at home if you feel unwell or have any COVID-19 symptoms, and contact your GP (for symptoms and further information log onto www.hse.ie/coronavirus.
Adapted from Cork Kerry Community Healthcare resource.