Get fit and make new friends with free walking sessions
A pensioner who discovered a new lease of life after joining a walking group is urging others to follow in his footsteps during National Walking Month.
Cliff Waghorn took up walking following the death of his best friend and wife of 48 years in 2016. With no close friends or relatives living nearby, he decided that he needed to find a way to keep active and interact with other people.
Now, having found a new lease of life through walking, he is encouraging people to try a free guided walk.
May is National Walking Month and County Durham residents are being reminded that they can take part in free weekly walks to help them relax, stay healthy and meet new people.
Walk Durham sessions, which run in partnership with us, take place every week in towns and villages across the county and are led by trained walk leaders.
It was on his first Walk Durham stroll two years ago that 75-year-old Cliff found a new passion for exercise. Since then, he's lost 21 pounds in weight, his health has massively improved and he has made dozens of new friends.
Life changing invite
Cliff began walking on his own but found it a lonely experience and had difficulty getting his breath due to his Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. But, it was during one of these solitary walks that he received a life changing invite to join a regular Walk Durham group.
"I was visiting Beamish Museum one day and a lady dressed up in 1900s costume asked if she could walk with me. She then told me all about the walking group on a Friday. The rest is history, I never miss a walk now." explained Cliff.
"The walks have made a huge difference. I've met so many lovely people and look forward to the walks - I don't feel lost anymore! I've lost weight and my lung capacity has increased enormously. I used to get out of breath climbing the stairs but not anymore."
Not just health benefits
Within the first six months of weekly walking, Cliff's breathing had improved to the point that he no longer needed to use one of his inhalers, but it isn't just his health that has benefitted.
"One of the main benefits, apart from improving my physical fitness was the social aspect of mixing and chatting with like-minded people. The combination of exercise and social interaction is everything I was looking for.
"The walks have been the making of me, I really don't know what I'd do without the Walk Durham scheme, it's totally changed my life."
Cliff is a regular member of the Beamish Museum Walk Durham group and enjoys it so much that he has since joined two other walking groups, walking between nine and 12 miles a week.
For all abilities
Stephen Clough, our physical activity officer, said: "Walking is a great way to improve fitness and our health walks are designed for people of all levels and abilities, no-one is ever left behind.
"Walking is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise and can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 50 per cent. It can also reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes and some cancers as well as helping you to manage your weight, improve your mood and boost your self-esteem.
"There's no need to book to attend a Walk Durham session, so there's no need to make a major commitment, people can just turn up on the day and give it a go."
Details of all Walk Durham sessions, which last between 30 and 90 minutes, can be found on our Walk Durham web page.