Power of Walking Conference – November 2019

9th December 2019

On Wednesday 14th November, we hosted a ‘Power of Walking’ conference with The Public Health Agency and Sport NI, in Queen’s Riddle Hall Belfast, to demonstrate how achieving a stronger culture of walking has the power to offer enormous benefits for the local population in Northern Ireland.

The aim of this conference was to:

  • Enhance delegates’ knowledge of the benefits of walking to public health and communities
  • Showcase good practice in the UK and Ireland
  • Reflect on health trends and the latest research
  • Provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental networking

Presentations are available to download from the links below:

The Power of Walking – an essential community physical activity intervention – Dr. William Bird MBE

Dr William Bird MBE is one of the UK’s leading experts on physical activity and also a GP passionate about getting people moving. As a GP, he quickly realised that companionship and contact with nature were major driving forces in keeping people active. He has been behind hugely successfully schemes such as Health Walks, Green Gyms and Beat the Street which has engaged more than 1,000,000 people worldwide. William is an advisor to WHO, Public Health England, Sport England, is CEO of Intelligent Health and in 2010 was awarded MBE for his contributions to health.


Case Study – Life on the Greenway – Michelle Bryans

Michele Bryans is Manager of the Connswater Community Greenway Trust. Previously she was employed in a variety of youth and community roles in East Belfast. Michele was Chair of the East Belfast Youth Practitioners Forum from 2011 to 2015, is an independent member of the East Belfast District Policing and Community Safety Partnership and sits on the management committees for Walkway Community Association and the East Belfast Area Youth Project.


Double Presentation: How walking is ‘man’s best medicine’ and
How 10 minutes brisk walking every day can bring significant health benefits – Professor Marie Murphy

Professor Marie Murphy is Professor of Exercise and Health, Dean of Postgraduate Research and Director of the Ulster Doctoral College. Marie’s research focuses on the effect of physical activity and exercise, in particular, walking. Her work has contributed to the evidence base underlying the current physical activity guidelines in the US, UK and Ireland and she was a co-author of the UK guidelines by the 4 Chief Medical Officers in the report “Start Active Stay Active” (DoH 2011). Marie is a member of the UK Chief Medical Officer’s expert advisory group on physical activity and is currently leading the scientific panel reviewing the UK physical activity guidelines for adults.


Walking in Nature – A step toward mental health, a leap towards resilience – Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre

Tadhg MacIntyre is a Lecturer in the Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department of the University of Limerick. He leads the ‘Go Green’ initiative which gathers and reviews research on the benefits to mental health of exercising within the natural environment. Tadhg recently led the development of three European level proposals on nature based interventions for wellbeing with members of the ‘Go Green’ initiative. In addition, Tadhg is a chartered psychologist with the British Psychologist Society and a registered practitioner with the HCPC.


Case Study – ‘Walking on Sunshine’ and the benefits of walking to mental health – Dr. Paul Kelly

Dr Paul Kelly is a lecturer in Physical Activity for Health at the University of Edinburgh. He is based in the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC) which is led by Prof Nanette Mutrie. Paul’s research interests focus on evaluation of physical activity initiatives and improving the way we try to measure physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Current projects include understanding the mental health benefits of different activities.


The connection between green space and better health – Bridgette Hall

Bridgette Hall is Head of Recreation for Forestry England, having started her career as a ranger in the New Forest. Forestry England is the largest land owner/manager in England, with people making over 230 million visits to England’s public forests every year. Bridgette is responsible for leading the recreation and community teams across England including programmes as diverse as walking, cycling, running, volunteering, through to multi-venue high profile live music and large scale events. Bridgette is also currently Vice Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Network.


Taking steps to notice nature and nurture health: NEAR Health, NUI Galway and NIPC – National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health – Dr. Caitriona Carlin

Dr Caitriona Carlin is a Postdoctoral Researcher based at the Applied Ecology Unit, Environmental Science at NUI Galway. She investigates ecosystem services and in particular benefits to health and wellbeing. She is interested in how and why people connect with nature and how this might motivate them to conserve nature. She is the Principal Investigator on the EPA/HSE project to assess how Nature and the Environment can Attain and Restore (NEAR) health and is the lead author of the EPA-funded postdoctoral project ‘Health Benefits from Biodiversity’.


Case Study – How community trails in a green space helped build community cohesion – Caro-Lynne Ferris

Caro-lynne Ferris is the Executive Director of Outdoor Recreation NI (ORNI), a not-for-profit organisation established in 1999, with responsibility for the strategic development, management and promotion of outdoor recreation across Northern Ireland. More recently, ORNI’s staff team are involved in several significant outdoor recreation projects in the Republic of Ireland. Before Caro-lynne took up her current role in 1999, she worked on a variety of access, rural development and outdoor recreation related projects across several of Northern Ireland’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Case Study – Social prescribing in Northern Ireland – Tony Doherty

Tony Doherty is Regional Co-ordinator of the Healthy Living Centre Alliance in the north of Ireland, and is Chair of the Northern Integrated Care Partnership (ICP). Tony is a member of the Transition Leadership Group for ICP Development. He has forged strong links with GPs bringing general practice closer to community development and social prescribing and is currently co-chair of the Social Prescribing Network Ireland. Tony is co-chair of the Programme for Government (NI) Community Development Implementation and Innovation Board.


An insight into the Scottish National Walking Strategy and the learnings from Walking for Health – Helen Morrison

Helen Morrison is a Senior Development Officer with Scotland’s national walking charity, Paths for All. In her capacity within the Walking for Health team, Helen manages the Scottish Health Walk Network that delivers over 650 weekly Health Walks, the Walking for Health Fund and 4 Development Officers. During her career, Helen was instrumental in establishing the Bristol city-wide Walking for Health scheme, and was Chief Executive of Volunteer Centre Bath & North East Somerset and Forth Environment Link.