Workplace health scheme – a huge success!

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Dedicated DOH staff leave the warmth of Wellington House

Nordic Walking UK recently teamed up with HASSRA (the Dept. of Health’s sport’s and recreation club) to develop a Nordic walking programme for DH staff as part of the Civil Service Physical Activity challenge.

Despite freezing weather and a challenging central London location the project has blossomed into a regular programme for the staff with some impressive results. The programme followed a format developed by NWUK to encourage employees to not only increase activity levels but to be empowered to set up and deliver their own programmes in the future.

A gentle start to the Taster as traffic passes by!

The first ‘Taster’ sessions, delivered by the NWUK  workplace health team, were 45 minute sessions which were promoted internally via staff e mail newsletters and posters (all text, facts and artwork provided by NWUK) This was set up to test the response to the potential introduction of a sustainable programme and immediately the indications were that Nordic Walking was something staff felt would provide them with an effective energising lunchtime workout that was not too intense.

The ‘Taster’ sessions were fully booked and a huge success! It was one of the coldest days of the winter with a biting wind that chilled through to the bone but the employees all gathered in the reception area of Wellington House near Waterloo station. They had all completed their Parq forms which had been distributed by the co-ordinators from HASSRA so once these were duly checked by the Tutor and everybody was deemed fit and well enough to join in….it was time for the off.

Martin Christie from NWUK set the group up with their nordic walking poles and led them to the nearest open space to mobilise their joints and gently prepare them for their whole body workout. As they made their way to the square outside the OLD VIC theatre, Martin ensured they were gradually warming up by keeping them moving even when at traffic lights! Once in the square he began to gradually build up the intensity as he taught some basic drills designed to help them get the most from their poles.

A gentle warm up outside the Old Vic theatre

Once they had mastered the basic pole plant position (to ensure they master how to engage the upper body and take the weight from their lower joints) Martin led them briskly off towards the Thames where they enjoyed a scenic route past the ITV studios and towards the London Eye (pictured in the background below) The group were fantastic and were soon commenting how lovely it was to catch up with colleagues from other Depts and how the cold was no longer an issue. They could all see & feel the benefits of using poles and a couple were beginning to really get into their stride.The fact that they could feel they were working most of their major muscles yet were still able to chat to each other and not get too sweaty was also a key factor and many of them agreed that this was something they could see themselves doing regularly.

DOH staff striding along beside the Thames

Time flew by (as it does when you are having fun) and the group soon found themselves back at Waterloo House where they performed a few stretches following a gentle cool down masterly administered by Martin as they walked back to the building.Once inside the feedback was really positive and one employee (Gok) immediately expressed an interest in becoming more involved in order that a regular group could be set up.

As sustainability had always been the focus of the trial, it was agreed that NWUK would continue to deliver sessions in order that this first bunch of enthusiastic employees could learn the technique fully and form the basis of a group which would then be led by leaders from within the DH who would be trained by NWUK. In fact, Gok and a colleague Lesley from Richmond House where there was another trial, were so keen they decided to train not just as leaders but as a full NWUK instructors! As luck would have it, funding for this was available via the Mayors Legacy which was set up to ensure London gained from the Olympics with community based activity programmes so, with some additional support from HASSRA, their places were booked.

A brisk pace as they head back to the Office

As Martin led the initial group of employees through their ‘Learn to Nordic Walk’ programme, Gok and Lesley attended the Instructor training and were ready to shadow him and take over the reins straight away.The great news is that the inital group are really keen to continue and have noticed huge improvements in their mood, movement and even health – see quote from a delighted participant whose shoulder pain has been reduced.

The six weeks Nordic Walk lunch time sessions were a great help in healing my frozen shoulder and low back problem.  It is worth investing in such re-energising exercises that works the whole body and get you out into the fresh air.  We had an excellent instructor who co-ordinated the sessions to meet our individual
abilities. Exercising as a group also provided support and encouragement, which
motivated us to stick to our weekly sessions (through the cold, wet and windy
conditions) to complete the course.  I thoroughly enjoyed my Nordic Walk experience and highly recommended it to others.”

Some of the group also competed in a Civil Service Sports club Queens Diamond Jubilee walk see picture.

HASSRA nordic walking group at Queens Diamond Jubilee event

Another benefit for the group is that, as part of the set workplace health process, Martin issued them with NWUK competence cards that enable them to join in with groups nearer to their homes or even when on hoilday. So, now they have been converted they can Nordic Walk at Work, Home and Play!







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