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New walking program aims to get people moving in the community

Launched this past summer, NS Walks is looking to recruit more participants and potential walk leaders in communities all across the province
NS Walks
Hike Nova Scotia's NS Walks pilot program launched in the summer of 2021

A new provincial program hopes to motivate less-active Nova Scotians to get out and explore our neighbourhoods more.

Hike Nova Scotia has launched NS Walks, a new initiative that’s mandate is to provide social support for those residents that would like to become more active or get involved in a local walking group.

Born out of Walkabout, a now-defunct initiative that was run through the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, NS Walks aims to fill a need for those less active in the province.

“We knew that it kind of left a gap when it comes to walking groups and walk-leader training in the province,” says program coordinator Catherine Droesbeck about the creation of NS Walks. “According to some surveys in Nova Scotia, there are many people who want to be more active but they want someone to walk with or do something with active-wise.”

A free program, NS Walks pairs participants with volunteer walk leaders across Nova Scotia. Through the organization, those leaders are provided guidance to organize and lead accessible, gentle walks in communities of their choosing.

“We have quite a few people who are waiting in communities for a group to start up,” says Droesbeck, noting that since it’s introduction earlier this summer, the group has formed about 25 walking groups with interest steadily building.

“We’re hoping for a tremendous amount of growth,” adds Droesbeck. “(But) it’s going to depend on getting walk leaders into communities around the province.”

For that reason, NS Walks is calling on volunteers to sign up, not only to join as participants, but as potential walk leaders for their respective communities.

Virtual training only takes approximately three hours and will help to guide, instruct and support walk leaders on how to organize weekly walks, select routes that are adequate, how to accommodate people of all mobility levels and other essential information.

“We are really just making sure that those who have been less active are going to feel welcome at the group,” says Droesbeck, adding that current available walks, registration details and other information is available on the NS Walks website.

Droesbeck also notes that in addition to the physical attributes of active walking, the program has surprisingly added ancillary health benefits for Nova Scotians in the wake of the last 20 months.

“The pandemic really highlighted the fact that we really need to be with other people and we need the support of other people,” says Droesbeck, adding that most comments from current participants take note of the new friendships and sense of camaraderie the program has helped to forge.

“They say that social isolation is now probably the number one risk factor for a lot of health problems so if we can do our little part at NS Walks to lessen that risk factor and to get them out a bit more with people, then I think we are doing well.”

For more information on NS Walks, visit the website.

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