Walking to help cancer recovery

I have been volunteering with the Macmillan’s Move More Edinburgh walking group since March 2016. I lead a health walk around the Meadows in Edinburgh, offering the opportunity for our participants to take part in a 10 to 60-minute light walk with the option to stay behind after the walk for a coffee and a chat.

The walk provides a lot of benefits to those taking part, many of who have recently received treatment for cancer or have treatment coming up soon.

I feel it offers a sort of peer counselling to everyone – the chance to talk about your experience of cancer with people who may share similar experiences and appreciate your concerns.

Some people on the walk have expressed to me how isolating life can be when having to go through cancer alone and they have told me of their gratitude for the Move More Edinburgh programme as it gives them a chance to talk about what is on their mind. Just having someone who is willing to listen is so much appreciated.

Having said that there is never any pressure to discuss any health issues –  the walk can also provide a chance to simply take your mind off the stresses of life. I hear a lot of lovely conversations as we walk around the park and I enjoy the walk just as much as the participants. The subject of cancer is never brought up by myself or the other walk leader, but there’s a sense of understanding if someone wishes to talk, which is nice.

Since becoming a walk leader not only have I seen the advantages it can bring to a person’s mood but I have read and understood a lot more of the research behind physical activity and cancer.

I find it interesting how helpful something as simple as a weekly walk can be to aid recovery from some treatments.

The group is a big confidence boost for many of the walkers. I have seen massive improvements in such a short space of time in the distances some of them can walk and the speed in which they travel.  One or two of our walking group members really did find it difficult to walk a short distance at first, but their character shone through.

It’s amazing to see someone who can’t walk for five minutes when they start but they continue to attend the group and challenge themselves to walk a little more each week.  Before you know it, they are walking for a full hour, chatting all the way around the park. To be a part of that is very special and very rewarding to witness.

Volunteering with the Move More Edinburgh programme helped me to challenge some of my own issues. I had been ill and struggling to get back into the swing of things and back on top of my life. Spending time with people was the key motivation for me and I experienced many benefits from walking and spending time with people.  I feel it helped my mood and confidence and seeing people happy is something that in turn makes me happy, so I have volunteering to thank for helping me overcome the challenges that I faced.

Move More is a fantastic programme and I would recommend it to other volunteers. I have met so many great people, and improved my physical and mental fitness while helping others. It really has been great.

The walking group has been a real source of inspiration. Watching others make such progress gives me motivation to strive to improve myself. Spending time with people who really have been through a lot and watching them not letting it get them down, keeping smiling, improving their wellbeing and having fun together is a great example of looking on the bright side of life – something that I now always try to do.

By Max McDonald, Macmillan Move More Edinburgh volunteer with Edinburgh Leisure

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