Walking for confidence

Dee used walking to shed her excess weight and get her health and confidence back on track.

I’m only 5ft [1.5m] tall, and I weighed almost 17 stone [106kg]. It was a lot of pressure on my body. Taking the kids to school, just walking 100m from the car was hard. I couldn’t stand for long when cooking dinner.

In 2019, I was on a plane from Cyprus. Another passenger told the steward he didn’t want to sit next to such a fat person because I was ‘overflowing’ onto his seat. It was so embarrassing. I felt heartbroken and cried all the way home. I knew I needed to lose weight, but I didn’t know how.

I realised I couldn’t have a healthy lifestyle without exercise and eating well – but I wasn’t sure I had the strength to do both. I said to myself, ‘get under 100kg, then start exercising.’ I dropped the weight in six weeks.

Being that big and going to the gym, I would have got looks. Walking was the only option for me. So I got a fitness watch and started counting my steps. I read that if you’re a complete beginner, you should exercise three times a week, so I did 1,000 steps every other day. I knew a good fitness goal was 10,000 steps a day. It took me five months to manage that.

I was following Active Fenland on social media and I saw a post about a Ramblers Wellbeing Walk. It seemed a great idea – like a social club, but you’re walking as well. Then I saw they were looking for walk leaders and I thought: ‘Fantastic, this is my opportunity.’ I felt nervous about putting myself forward, but also worried that no one else would volunteer. Eventually, I decided: ‘I want to join a walking group; I might as well make my own!’


Leading the way

I didn’t know any walking routes, but Wisbech has a few landmarks and a lovely river, so I created a walk around those. Hettie from Active Fenland helped with the risk assessment and planning – I felt really supported. We started advertising, and it’s grown from there.

Now 20 to 25 people come each week to our Friday walks. Everyone’s so friendly – I couldn’t ask for a better group.

It’s about socialising and mental health as much as exercise. Some people have moved to Wisbech and don’t know anybody. One lady has social anxiety and never thought she could be part of such a big group – it took her three sessions just to get out of her car, but now she loves it. Another is a carer and doesn’t see many people, so she joined, and met a friend she now sees regularly.

My passion is getting people active. Walking will always hold a special place in my heart, and I want to give that to others.

If I’d carried on as I was, I probably wouldn’t be able to care for myself or my children. Today, I’m 8 stone [50kg] lighter. Walking has given me back the confidence I once had, and opened new avenues for me. In 2021, someone inspired me to do the NHS’s Couch to 5k programme. I joined Fenland Running Club and in 2022, I completed my first half marathon.

I think walking is underestimated. It’s free, you don’t need any equipment and you don’t need to be fit. You see wildlife, you meet other people, and being outdoors in the fresh air boosts mental health. If I hadn’t walked, I wouldn’t have been able to run.

a male rambler overlooking a river with several small boats parked by the riverbank

Walking for health

From living with a heart condition in his mid-20s to completing a 100km walk, Will values walking as a way of staying fit and well.

A woman smiling outside.

How walking helped my mental health

Gina tells how walking with others has helped her feel like herself again and why she encourages those with mental health struggles to join a walking group.

A selfie photo of Arron smiling.  There are large rugged hills behind him.

Challenging perceptions of the Ramblers

Arron, the chair of Fillyaboots Merseyside Young Walkers talks about being a young, LGBT+, working class Rambler.