New Forest walks prescribed as part of local "natural health service"

Patients at a Hampshire GPs' surgery are being prescribed walks in the New Forest National Park to help them alleviate stress, recover from illness, improve physical fitness or overcome mental health problems.

Image: New Forest National Park
Image: New Forest National Park

Doctors at Fordingbridge Surgery have begun referring patients to the Fordingbridge Walking for Health group, which has expanded from two walks a month to two walks a week, while a similar group has also been set up in nearby Ringwood.

The groups are part of a partnership project by the New Forest National Park Authority, Community First New Forest, Fordingbridge Footpath Society, New Forest District Council and the two surgeries, with sessions led by local volunteers.

Dr Toby Wallis, a GP Partner at Fordingbridge Surgery, said: "Exercise is listed as an evidence-based prevention or treatment in 39 UK national guidelines to improve the quality of patient care.

"We know that more people die prematurely through physical inactivity than from smoking, diabetes and obesity combined. The healthy walks programme is a great way for people to exercise in this wonderful local environment of the New Forest."

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