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GM Walking has given grants to local voluntary and community groups with the aim of getting Greater Manchester walking. We offered the grants to support a huge range of activities that encourage people who are usually less active to start or to increase the amount they walk regularly.

One of the groups benefitting from this was Speakeasy in Bury. Here we look at what they did and how they got on.

What is Speakeasy?

Speakeasy is for people living with aphasia; which is an issue with some or all aspects of communication that can follow a stroke or other brain injury.

Speakeasy’s mission is to make a positive difference to the lives of people who have aphasia and their carers. They offer a wide range of co-designed activities to assist members and their carers with building skills and confidence, improving communication and re-establishing links with their communities.

What was the project?

Speakeasy used its grant to launch a Land’s End to John O’Groats virtual walking challenge. They encouraged members to join in, set goals and increase their activity levels by pledging to do some kind of activity three times a week where possible. Everyone was included – depending on their ability levels and health challenges, some members did armchair exercise, others walked in the house while some even walked outside for miles!

Who took part?

Around 50 Speakeasy group members from across Greater Manchester took part in the collective walking challenge.

How did it go?

The challenge was a huge success! Members reported losing weight, getting fitter and building their confidence in their physical abilities. Both group members and staff alike also said they’d become more aware of how to use fitness apps to track their fitness goals.

One group member completed her pledged activities as a sponsored event, raising £175 for Speakeasy in the process.

Some of those who took part even made and shared videos of themselves getting out walking in local greenspaces with their family and dogs, inspiring other group members to do the same.

Success stories

Speakeasy member J suffered a stroke six years ago when she was in her mid-fifties and working as a catering manager. This caused marked aphasia and right-sided weakness affecting both J’s arm and her leg. As a result, she walks effortfully and slowly and with support from a stick. J lives alone and was socially isolated.

J committed to the project by walking further each day around the inside of her flat, round the perimeter of the whole building and eventually building up the stamina and the confidence to walk further around her local area. J sent weekly updates on her walking, took part in online Zoom calls to share her progress and was very proud of what she was achieving. Throughout the project, J attended outdoor meetups in the park when indoor meetings were discouraged due to covid restrictions. This helped to alleviate her social isolation.

When lockdown restrictions eased, J visited York with her sister where she posed for a photo walking down the cobbled Shambles – a very challenging surface for J due to her disability.

J said she really enjoyed taking part in the project, setting and meeting goals and challenging herself to build up her fitness.

For more information

To find out more about Speakeasy, the activities on offer and how you can get involved, please see website.

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