By Philippa Shirtcliffe, Head of Care Quality, QCS (www.qcs.co.uk)
Occasionally I suffer from writer’s block. Usually when it hap- pens, there are either too many thoughts spinning around my head or I simply can’t get into the writing groove. Whenever it happens I remember a quote by John Rogers, an author and businessman. He said, “You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.” Today, as I sit in my home office struggling to find my flow, it’s the first part of the quote that really resonates with me. Knowing only too well that there’s no way that I can think myself out of my creative slump, I catch the eye of Lottie, our miniature schnauzer, grab my house keys, her lead and head to my local park.
I’m telling you this story because its National Walking Month and Mental Health Awareness Week, and I can attest that taking a leisurely stroll with Lottie in tow has mental and physical benefits, not to mention acting as a panacea for my temporary block.
I’m lucky because my employer, QCS, the UK’s leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care sector, champions exercise during our working day. The upshot is that in addition to doing my target steps each day, I am able to conduct meetings and take calls in the park if I want to – and if the weather allows.
I’m even more lucky, however, to live close to a Royal Park, a magical landscape spanning 1,000 acres. It’s a park with many faces, which dramatically change with the seasons. Today a gossamer-like mist hangs on the trees like a giant spider web. It’s a hauntingly beautiful scene lasting just a few seconds before the May sun penetrates the gun-metal grey skies and the mist lifts revealing two large fallow deer. Even if you’ve seen them many times before as I have, these majestic animals are quite a sight to behold. Lottie doesn’t seem to agree today, however. Her eyes peeled, ears pricked and nose eagerly sniffing the grass, she’s on the trail of squirrels or rabbits. Having caught the scent, she begins a quixotic chase.
It’s experiences like these in parks, heaths, woodland and fields that have reinvigorated so many of us in lockdown. But not everyone has been so lucky. Take those living in care homes, for instance. Covid-19 restrictions had meant that many residents living in care homes, who were fit and able to do so, have been unable to leave care homes, let alone spend time in the great outdoors. Thankfully, a recent change in government policy, which recognises a resident’s rights to make visits out of the home, has been implemented. While there are still likely to be a number of IPC rules to observe, the pleasure of visiting a favourite park, the sights and sounds of nature and the joy of reminiscing about shared past experiences, make it all worth it.
It has been an extremely challenging time for young adults with learning disabilities too. Many of the outdoor set routines, which are often dependent on volunteer help, dried up in the pandemic due to volunteers self-isolating or shielding during the crisis. The hope is that as the spectre of Covid lifts, the 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability, who experience more co-morbidity and health inequalities than the general population, will have unrestricted access to nature once more.
And walking in nature is the by far the best tonic. Not only does stepping-out in the fresh air act like a reset for the mind, partaking in a small constitutional each day has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. For instance, if you were to walk at just two mph for 20 minutes each day, you would burn 70-100 calories (depending on age and weight). Making that a daily routine, as I do, burns seven pounds of body fat each year. That’s half a stone, which is quite amazing when you consider that walking is something that I really enjoy.
But, walking today with my dog in the idyllic surroundings of the park has also set the mental cogs whirring once again and helped me to deliver this column. Maybe I should base myself here I think. But as the inky blue skies turn black and the clouds unleash a torrent of cold rain, I’m glad to go back to my office. That said, rain or shine, I’ll be back in the park tomorrow.
To find out more about QCS, contact our compliance advisors on 0333-405-3333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
You can find out more about National Walking Month 2021 by clicking on the below link:
For more on Mental Health Week, click in the link below: