Walkers across the islands took to their feet this spring while virtually walking through the islands as part of an Active Hebrides Strategy initiative – the ‘Walk on Hebrides’ step count challenge led by NHS Western Isles.

Outer Hebrides residents were invited to join the challenge; aiming to walk the length of the islands (172 miles) over six weeks.

By logging their steps on the Big Team Challenge app and web system, their progress was tracked along the World Walking virtual route ‘Na h-Eileanan Siar’; starting on Barra, travelling north through the islands and finishing at the Butt of Lewis.

More than 300 people took part in the challenge either as individuals or as a team of two; with teams sharing the distance covered. Over two thirds of participants completed the route with many more completing over 75 percent.  After targeting, this year saw an increase in participation from males, people aged 65+ and residents of Harris.

Walking is a simple way to increase physical activity levels. It’s an all round great activity for all ages and fitness levels, which can improve physical, social and mental health.

During the challenge participants met the recommended UK Physical Activity Guidelines and those taking part in teams reported their activity levels increasing. A high percentage of walkers reported they felt benefits to their health and wellbeing from the additional activity during the challenge and would choose walking more as a preferred option after the challenge.

Comments from walkers included:

  • I was motivated to keep walking knowing local people were taking part
  • Thank you very much for another amazing challenge, which is great for our health in more ways than one
  • Wonderful idea and will certainly take part next year
  • Even though I didn’t complete the challenge my steps increased and I am looking at other challenges to take part in

Karen Peteranna, Health Improvement Practitioner, NHS Western Isles, said: “Being active is important for maintaining and improving our health. It is important for our mental health, social connections and in the reduction of risks to many serious diseases. 

“Walking is one of the most accessible activities available to us. You can start-off small and build-up your pace and distance over time. Evidence tells us that walking programmes like this can bring benefits to health in the short term and promote sustained activity long term. I hope participants of this challenge felt encouraged to continue their efforts now the challenge is over.”