Patients and staff at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) donned their walking boots to take part in the launch of the Trust’s guided walks last week.
Nearly 300 people at nine sites across the Trust took part in the first guided walks organised by weight management service, A Weight off Your Mind. The aim of the walks was to encourage staff and patients to be more active and get outside on their break time.
It has been found that people with a serious mental illness and learning disability are at an increased risk of poor physical health, with their life expectancy reduced by 15 to 20 years. It is thought that two thirds of these early deaths are caused by avoidable physical illnesses that are linked to an unhealthy lifestyle.
A Weight off Your Mind is a plan for people with lived experience of mental health conditions and/ or learning disabilities receiving support from CNTW and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
The guided walks are just one of many A Weight off Your Mind initiatives, designed to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
Lisa Davies, Public Health and Wellbeing Lead at CNTW, said: “It was great to see so many people come together for the walks. The atmosphere was fantastic with lots of people chatting and enjoying the fresh air. We hope that staff and service users will see the walks as something that can be part of their daily or weekly routines.
“The walks are part of a wider plan to provide a healthy workplace and ensure that our staff, service users and carers have the education and information they need to make positive lifestyle changes to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
“We are committed to supporting the people in our services to look after their physical health alongside their mental health or disability. One of A Weight off Your Mind’s key themes is to improve access to physical activity and the walks are an easy way for people to get exercising.”
A Weight off Your Mind aims to bring the physical health, life expectancy and quality of life in line with those of the general population. The plan was created in partnership with service users, NETogether, CNTW, TEWV, the Northern Clinical Network, Public Health England, local authorities and Teesside University.
Thanks to the success of the launch of the guided walks, ward managers at CNTW are planning on implementing them as a regular feature across the Trust’s sites.
Dr James Hecker, Innovative Speciality Doctor at CNTW, took part in the walk at Monkwearmouth Hospital. He said: “Just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day can reduce the risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease and some cancers. And for those that cannot walk at a brisk pace we know that extra movement matters.
“During the walk there were many travelling at different paces but we all learned that just a small amount of increased movement beyond what is normal for each individual can have a number of health benefits.
“We positively encourage staff to take regular daily walk breaks.”
A number of CNTW staff are also taking part in a six-week challenge to make a healthy start to the year. The challenge, which began on Monday 13 January, encourages staff to make positive lifestyle changes using A Weight off Your Mind resources and sharing their progress. The Trust is also supporting staff to have conversations about lifestyle choices.
CNTW is a provider of mental health and learning disability services in the North East and North Cumbria.