Find what you were looking for? Share your thoughts with a short survey

Smoke free wellbeing walks

We hear from Matthew O’Gorman, tobacco dependence advisor, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, on a walking initiative he and a colleague established at the Trust to help with patients’ mental and physical wellbeing.

Wellbeing walksFor some of our patients who smoke, once they have leave the ward, they can be tempted back into smoking. Working at Bethlem Royal Hospital, I saw a need for patients to have some constructive planned leave to support their efforts to cut down or quit smoking, as well as to improve their general well-being.  Rebecca Stroud, occupational therapist on Tyson West one at Bethlem Royal Hospital, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and I came up with the idea of offering patients ‘smoke free wellbeing walks’.

Going for a walk can actively revive us and can help to keep our mind and bodies healthy. “Walking as a Meaningful Leisure Occupation: The Implications for Occupational Therapy”, by Ruth Wensley and Anita Slade (2012) shares how a qualitative study found that walking in nature benefited not only physical health but the participants’ emotional and psychological wellbeing. 

We are so lucky at Bethlem Royal Hospital to have such amazing grounds to explore, we are based in more than 200 acres of green space in Bromley, south east London. Walking in the open countryside can bring us closer to nature.  Many of our walks take us down past the football pitches to the open fields [pictured above].  It is so quiet in this part of the hospital; we often sit and listen to the birds (mainly the parakeets!) We have even seen a fox and some pheasants!

We have also walked around the hospital buildings. There is a nice loop we often take patients on which takes us past many of buildings in the hospital.  The majority of patients who come on the walks have never explored the ground’s and are shocked at how vast it is.  We have also visited the walled garden which is a great spot to sit, relax and learn about all the different fruits and vegetables that are currently being grown.  Patients who come on the walk are encouraged to bring along their e-cigarette which are provided by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.  We discuss the benefits of vaping versus smoking and the benefits of cutting down or stopping smoking.  The walk offers an ideal time to discuss these issues in an informal way, as well as get some exercise.

The smoke free wellbeing walks have been a great success so far, and I hope to take them onto some other wards in the hospital.  It has been interesting to understand the different reasons why people attend.  For some, it is to get smoking cessation advice in an informal setting, for others it is to walk in nature, while for some it is to get exercise or to engage in some peer support away from the ward.  Whatever the reason people attend it helps improve their wellbeing and for many has given them an activity they can carry on with after they have been discharged.

The mind and body are inseparable, and mental and physical health conditions are often connected. Integrating mental and physical healthcare services has the potential to vastly improve the care that patients receive.