Woodlands For Health offers a recovery focused physical activity programme which complements traditional mental health treatment. The primary aim of the programme is to improve the quality of life for adults who experience enduring mental-ill health in the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown area by engaging them in walking and activities in a woodland environment.
Research has shown that engagement with nature through outdoor activities can have a significant positive impact on people’s mental health and well-being. Woodlands For Health is an innovative development, which set out to identify the health value that woodland activities can provide to participants and to demonstrate its value to health professionals.
Combining physical activity with spending time outdoors can optimise the benefits of that activity, in particular by enhancing mental wellbeing. Specifically, natural environments such as woodland areas are restorative, can reduce stress, feelings of tension, anger, confusion and depression, and aid recovery from stressful events.
Based on the success of a pilot programme in Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Sports Partnership brought together a number of service providers to develop a similar programme in the County. Members representing the partner groups had an initial exploratory meeting following which a Steering Group was established.
The members of the Steering group are as follows - Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Sports Partnership, Coillte, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, HSE, Get Ireland Walking, Cluain Mhuire, Mental Health Ireland.
A brief overview follows:
- It is a 10/ 12 week programme with 12-15 participants per week
- Participants are collected at a convenience central point
- The Walk location differs each week – start in parks progressing to mountain trails
- Complementary Lunch is provided for all
- Walks are led by experienced Dublin Mountain Partnership Rangers
- 2 hours of activities in a woodland setting
- Includes elements of gentle exercise, talks on the environment/route, environmental art and relaxation