QMU’s student wellbeing walks win national award

By Press Office

We all know that a nice walk can make you feel better, but staff at Queen Margaret University (QMU) are feeling particularly good this week as a special walking initiative, which they developed to improve student wellbeing, has won a national award.   

During lockdown, staff came up with the concept of organised walks which were socially distant, to help reduce isolation and improve mental and physical health amongst the student community. The Wellness Walks’ initiative has not only helped improve the student experience, it’s also been recognised by the Scottish charity ‘Paths for All’, which champions everyday walking as a form of exercise and the creation of community paths to encourage walking.  

QMU’s Wellness Walks were developed as a collaboration between Louise Gill from the University’s Student Wellbeing Service and Sarah Whelan, QMU’s Sustainable Transport Co-Ordinator, during lockdown restrictions. With students often having been confined to their rooms in student residences, Wellness Walks provided a welcome opportunity to join others in some gentle exercise, while connecting with nature in a safe and socially distanced way. The regularity of the walks helped develop social connections and improve health and wellbeing during some of the most challenging periods in the last few years.   

The hour-long free walks, which meander through different routes and nature paths, have grown in popularity and now run every two weeks throughout the academic year. Not only have these organised outings provided students with a form of exercise, they have created the opportunity for students to meet people from different courses and to learn about the various walking options which surround the QMU campus in Musselburgh.   

Announced during the UK’s National Walking Month, the ‘Walking Champion in Education:  Wellness Walks’ award by Paths for All recognises the positive impact QMU’s Wellness Walks have had on the student population and can continue to have in the future.   

QMU Wellbeing Advisor, Louise Gill, explained the importance of the Wellness Walks. She said: “The coronavirus lockdown period was hugely impactful on our students confined to our university campus accommodation, we wanted to offer these students walking as a way to support isolation, loneliness and promote mental health and wellbeing.  At the time, the Wellness walks were a popular way to respond to our students’ needs whilst adhering to coronavirus restrictions.

“It has been very rewarding to see QMU’s Wellness walks recognised by Paths for All.  The feedback from our students is very positive and those that have participated enjoy exploring the area, accessing our natural environment which has also empowered students to continue these walks independently.”

Louise concluded: ‘Our hope is that the wellness walks make a difference to the health and wellbeing of our participating students in a variety of ways, our walks will continue into the future and may develop further promoting our connection with our wellbeing and our environment.” 

Notes to Editor

You can read more about the Wellness Walks at QMU here: https://www.qmu.ac.uk/location-and-getting-here/wellness-walks/ 

You can read more about Paths for All here: https://www.pathsforall.org.uk/