HUNDREDS of walkers are pounding the pavements of Huddersfield every week.
As part of an initiative which aims to improve the health of people in the area, Kirklees Council set up a health walks scheme.
Now more than 10 years on, nearly 500 people are taking part in the walks each week and a further hundred are trained as leaders annually.
Senior physical activity development officer for walking, Gill Logan, said: “The health walks are a great way for people to get out and do some exercise and meet people.
“Some walks have between 10 and 20 walkers each week where some of our more popular routes have around 40.
“The scheme was originally set up as part of the GP referral project, Practice Active Leisure Scheme or PALS and used to take place at sports centres.
“About 11 years ago, we got funding from Walking for Health and since then it has just taken off, with health walks growing from strength to strength.
“We have found that people have wanted to set up their own walks in their own areas, so we train them as walk leaders.
“Many people who are trained as leaders take the health walks into their own private organisations and encourage people to get out and be healthy.
“The walks are only an hour and can often be very sociable.
“People are never left behind and usually with the bigger groups, there is more than one leader who will stay at the back.”
The walks run at different times throughout the week and in different areas.
Colin Walker, of Linthwaite, was only 59 when he suffered a heart attack and was told by his doctors that if he returned to his job in construction, he was likely only to survive another 12 months.
After being referred to PALS after cardiac rehab, he became a health walk leader.
And nine years on, he is leading walks in both Marsden and Slaithwaite.
He said: “After my doctor gave me 12 months, it was a wake-up call.
“I thought I had indigestion and an hour later I was in the infirmary.
I never used to walk around, I did a little bit in my job but that was it.
“But since getting involved within the walks, my lifestyle and my health have improved.
“It is the best exercise and the cheapest, not to mention there is a social aspect to these walks.
“They are only about two and half to three miles and if there’s something going on, we will stop and have a look to see what it is.
“You don’t need all the gear, just something waterproof.
“I have made lots of friends and on the Slaithwaite and Marsden walks, we find we get between 25 to 38 walkers each session.”
He is currently organising the Marsden walk with his colleague Eric Martin and other leaders Pat Price and Graham Simpson.
Over 60 walkers from the two groups celebrated Christmas with a short health walk around Marsden before sitting down to a festive lunch.
Within Kirklees Walking there is also Nordic walking, which incorporates the use of poles and involves the entire body.
New Nordic walking classes will be starting in Greenhead Park on January 13.
For more information contact Gill Logan from the Sports and Physical Activity Development Team on 01484 234097.
To see the full timetable visit www.kirklees.gov.uk/healthwalks