How to Establish a new walking group

“The Green Walking project has benefited lots of patients and had a positive impact on the service. People are talking about getting service users involved in the group and we have always had service users attending the walks.” – Clinical walk leader, York (Tees, Esk & Wear)


Support from others 

Common pressures, including staff shortages and waiting lists for beds, make it a challenge to maintain holistic care on acute psychiatric wards. So, you might not feel completely supported in starting a new walking group. However, this can be helped by representing the green walk as a necessary and valuable part of care. Importantly, it should be discussed at various levels of the Trust and across professions. Make sure people know you’re starting it and that it matters! 

The absolutely critical first step to starting a new walking group is a discussion of the proposal involving the entire multidisciplinary team, including nursing and medical colleagues. It must be made clear that this is everyone’s walk. Once the decision has been made collectively, the ward should seek to inform the higher levels of Trust management such as the lead Allied Health Professional and Medical Director (you can find an example letter for this here). Responsibility for organising the walk should be with a particular member of staff but should be felt to be shared by the entire ward. Encouraging staff to join in the walk has a lasting and transformational impact on the group. 

Having said all of the above, if you are unable to gain the widespread support of colleagues at first, it is still worth going ahead and getting your walk started. Experience from Green Beacon sites shows that over time and with sustained communication, the group can become accepted and valued as a central part of the ward routine.

Wards can also support one another by presenting the walks at Trust functions to promote the start of other walking groups. 

Although no intervention can replace adequate overall resources, the minimal demands of a weekly walking group provide a platform to begin the effort of creating a more holistically mindful ward that strives to embody the expectations of patients and the standards recognised by the Accreditation for Inpatient Mental Health Services (AIMS) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC). 

To get others on board with the group, it is worth thinking about these things before you approach someone:

  • The key points you want to communicate
  • why you want to set up the walk
  • how you will do this
  • where it has been done before
  • who already supports this

Also bear in mind

  • who you are talking to
  • what they are interested in/worried about
  • how you can address those interests or concerns

Remember: Engage the emotions. Tell a story, if you have one, about a patient who would really benefit from green walking and how staff would also enjoy it. Let your passion and enthusiasm shine through. Evidence shows that presenting in this way is one of the most powerful ways of influencing others.

If you are nervous, consider practising ‘speaking out’ your key points and stories with enthusiasm, either to yourself in front of a mirror or to a trusted colleague and asking for feedback.

If you meet apprehension or resistance at any step remember to consider the big question: 

“This has already been successfully implemented in several places. What does it reflect about our offer of care if we do not have the resources or will to offer a walking group?”

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