The Health and Wellbeing programme brings together a collaboration of partners from the outdoor and health sectors to increase physical activity levels, improve mental and physical health and provide links with local community clubs and groups enabling people to lead independent long term active lifestyles
This project is building on the growing field of research prescribing people activities for their health rather than medication and is known as social prescribing
Our Health and Wellbeing programme was initially developed in north Wales in 2019 with funding from the Welsh Government’s Healthy and Active Fund.
The Opening Doors to the Outdoors project was a collaboration between The Outdoor Partnership, the Community Mental Health Teams across North Wales, local outdoor activity providers in the area and third sector organisations.
Using the social value model a independent evaluation showed that for every £1 invested in the project a total of £5.36 was generated for participants based on their answers.
In addition, interviews with clients indicated improved mental wellbeing (69%), better social trust (57%), health improvement (54%) and overall health (44%) from participating in the project (Bangor University, 2022).
Adventure Therapy Programme
Through our Health and Wellbeing programme we were introduced to Early Intervention for Psychosis (EIP) services throughout Wales. Using EnRAW funding we worked alongside these specialist services to develop Adventure Therapy programmes, integrating theoretical knowledge alongside practical sessions to help develop peoples’ emotional resilience, reduce stigma and develop social support groups.
The Outdoor Partnership now chairs the All Wales Adventure therapy subgroup within Wales and is developing projects, connections and partnerships with the 7 health boards across Wales to develop this as a national standard within Wales supporting outcomes for the health boards and the people they serve.
Developing the Health and Wellbeing programme further, we teamed up with Adferiad Recovery and specifically the Early Intervention Team within Adferiad on a pilot project, to offer young people between the ages of 18-34 the opportunity to explore the outdoors through a Land to Water Social Prescribing programme.
Working closely with two local providers , the programme sessions were based on research around ecotherapy, a formal type of therapeutic treatment which involves doing outdoor activities in nature, and included cold water immersion and all the benefits this includes. The programme gave participants the opportunity to learn about nature and their surroundings on land, through bushcraft activities and guided walks, as well as a safe and calming introduction to open water swimming.
A great demonstration of shared learning among our regions, our Hike and Dip sessions have been a huge success.
The benefits of outdoor swimming and cold water immersion are well documented, and the huge rise in the number of people exploring the activity gave us an idea to get even more people interested.
Our Hike and Dip sessions, which started in Pembrokeshire and have now spread as far as Ayrshire, involve opportunities to explore beautiful walks and be guided through those first tentative steps into open water dipping. The physical and mental health benefits gained from the activity can be hugely beneficial.