I didn’t know that back then I would leave such a legacy. The Eden Walking Group is famous. Ten years ago I found myself glugging wine and swapping stories at a restaurant full of military spouses. It turned out the lady sitting next to me worked in Occupational Health and was working on a pilot scheme with the NHS.
The group had a breathing disease but they needed a trainer to walk them. Enter stage right, Helen Tite, GP Referral Trainer with knowledge of special populations and a big fan of the Eden Project.
Lessons in Retention
Ten years later I am raising my glass to absent friends who were participants in The Eden Walking Group and celebrating a fantastic example of customer retention for those still well enough to attend.
They are there because they cannot breathe well. If you have seen Eden, it is full of steep hills and is built over an old quarry. The original group was formed in 2005 of which one gentlemen is still attending and has probably extended his life span because of this group. The legacy has allowed many individuals to attend and have probably extended their lives longer than we can imagine. Each anniversary Colin, who was on full time oxygen would say, “I never expected to be here this year. Thank you x”
It is difficult to prove it, we have kept records of footsteps taken and the feedback through healthcare is always positive, especially lung function tests. The mental health of a group like this is always a concern for the fitness and health professional but once again we record mental health, improved sense of wellbeing, reduction in anti-depressants and improved social inclusion. It is difficult to capture full impact of this exciting work.
Although COPD causes about 25,000 deaths a year in the UK, severe COPD can usually be prevented by making changes to your lifestyle
So what is the Eden Effect?
It stemmed as a philosophical moment celebrating a client’s success, whom for the first time walked from the bottom to the top of Eden without stopping, about 1000 metres. To pin point one thing would never be an option as the group is an alliance of people who will die probably of their lung conditions. A cold to us could well be pneumonia and death to them. Their sheer belligerence and determination to be within the group was always inspiring to observe.
We often underestimate the power of group work, I swear by it as I have observed an uplift in energy in these populations for many years. The amplification of this group coming together for the benefit of their own health is always inspirational and could make some pockets of our population ashamed.
I recall a severe weather warning and phoned all the attendees, warning them off. Myself and my colleague carried on the journey in spite of the weather just in case we missed anyone and wanted to ensure their safety. On arrival, there they were… all 38 of them, dressed head to toe in sou’westers and wet weather gear. No we didn’t exercise but we did drink hot chocolate and laugh our socks off as the rain poured down outside.
The Eden Effect is unity and trust in a safe environment.
For many it is the extension of their own gardens as the staff at Eden are so accommodating and on standby to give knowledge or simply have a chat about the ever changing landscape. Karen (staff at Eden) has been overseeing the group for 8 years and never fails to look after the wellbeing of the group.
So Much More
The Eden Effect is also about love and mindfulness, being in the moment, enjoying the scenery and not worrying about the future as that can be a sad and frightening image. The Eden Effect is the outcome that I visualise with every one of my health courses I run throughout my county of Cornwall.
The Eden Effect is also my vision for the future, wouldn’t it be great to empower and help form groups similar to the original Eden Walking Group around the country? Developed by fitness Professionals (Wellness Practitioners) and empowered to go on and self manage their own groups.
You see, everyone is entitled to move and have opportunities to be outside of the medical model and live life. Be well, be in the moment and simply be the best they can.