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Walking in the woods

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approaches to dementia care, exercise, hobbies

It all started in October 2019 at the Big Conversations event in Nottingham Racecourse. It was an event led by people living with dementia planning for it over eight months. It was a second event in its series. Around 100 people attended, mostly people living with dementia and their families. There the project manager, Dr Jane Rowley, announced the start of the #1000MilesWalk initiative. Virgin Pulse donated 100 step counters to Trent Dementia to help people living with dementia and their supporters and families to become more active. Suzanne, our project worker, helped us get this donation and it has proved a really popular initiative

I started to talk with local organisations like Best Foot Forward project in Age UK Nottingham, Notts Guided Walks, and Ramblers to see how we could join hands and cooperate together to help people living with dementia and their families and supporters form walking groups in Nottingham. I also undertook training with Ramblers’ to learn more about leading walks. I started to feel more confident after the training to lead walks with people living with dementia and their families and supporters. Our approach is to support people to run their own groups and my role is to help organise and lead walks until the group has sufficient members to run itself. Covid-19 has delayed this process but, we are working online to promote physical activity: https://www.trentdementia.org.uk/projects/walking-groups/.

A meta-analysis and systematic review conducted by Du et al (2018)i showed that physical activity might improve the cognitive function of Alzheimer’s disease or slow down the decline of cognition. Another systematic review and meta-analysis (Li et al, 2019)ii showed that exercise programmes might help with cognition and activities of daily living in people living with dementia. Walking five miles per week might protect the brain structure over 10 years in people with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment, especially in areas of the brain’s key memory and learning centres,” says Dr Cyrus Raji (MDedge Neurology, 2011)iii.

Trent Dementia charity decided to keep in contact with people online to stay healthy and start or continue their physical activities, be it gardening, walking in place, on treadmill, walking around the house, in the park, around neighbourhood, etc. Virgin Pulse step counters were a great help. We also received a small grant from The Thomas Farr to purchase trackers and maps for people living with dementia and their families.

We started promoting our project on social media. Wewe decided to initiate a small walking group open to people living with dementia and their families and supporters to come and have an half an hour walk around the Lake in Wollaton Park, Nottingham. We send out Virgin Pulse step counters to people living with dementia and their families and asked them if they would like to send us the number of steps that they take each time they go for a walk. We register their steps for them online and then send it to the Country Walking magazine and will send for #1000Miles Walk medal when they reach 1000 miles. Just by walking around half an hour each day (roughly 2.5 miles a day), one can finish 1000 miles in a year.

We had this group run for a few weeks before we decided to shut it down because of coronavirus and social distancing. At the time of the lock down, we decided to support our group members by having a Wednesday online Zoom meeting and start making videos of the pictures they take when they go out for a walk. We also run several other groups online and in each of them we promot physical activity and encourage gardening, walking, taking pictures of outdoors, and exercises. We also sent seeds and bedding plants through Bring Joy Foundation small grant and they are happily attending to their plants now. We also devised a survey to ask people how else we could support them to start or continue a physical activity of their choice. We sent the survey to DEEP network, GP surgeries, Alzheimer’s Society, Carers in Hucknall and other organisations to reach as wide an audience as possible. Some of the people who answered our survey expressed an interest to have group physical activity sessions with a trainer. So, we applied for funding and last week we received a small grant from Robin Hood Fund to arrange these online sessions for people living with dementia and their families and supporters. We use online films of walks around the world and I developed a training in making videos for people to use their own photos or film their daily exercise using their phones.

This is Steve & Cynthia’s video of one of their walks: https://www.facebook.com/deepnotts/videos/1099466253759187/.

We will not allow the lockdown to stop us from supporting people living with dementia in their walking endeavours and in doing physical activities. Last Tuesday, we had a hand jive followed by a hand massage session with people living with dementia and their families in our Tuesday’s Coffee & Chat meeting. They laughed and took part in the activity with good spirits.

I think one of the mottos of Trent Dementia charity is: ‘We NEVER give up!’



i Du, Z., Li, Y., Li, J., Zhou, C., Li, F., & Yang, X. (2018). Physical activity can improve cognition in patients with Alzheimer's disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clinical interventions in aging, 13, 1593–1603. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S169565

ii Li, X., Guo, R., Wei, Z., Jia, J., & Wei, C. (2019). Effectiveness of Exercise Programs on Patients with Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. BioMed research international, 2019, 2308475. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2308475

iii MDedge Neurology. (2011). Walking slows progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology reviews, 19(1): 23. https://www.mdedge.com/neurology/article/72791/alzheimers-cognition/walking-slows-progression-alzheimers-disease#:~:text=%E2%80%9CWe%20found%20that%20walking%20five,over%20five%20years.%E2%80%9D%20Dr.

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