Angela Cooper was appointed as one of the Active Dearne Community Champions in May 2019, and she’s not taken a backwards step ever since.
Instead, Angela has put one foot in front of the other countless times, leading walking groups from locations across Denaby, and helping others in her community to create active habits.
While doing her bit for her community is nothing new for Angela – who has had a number of paid and voluntary community roles – she concedes that she never imagined the day where walking would be having such a positive impact on her life.
“I didn’t even go on walks,” says Angela, who now dons her high-vis jacket to lead a number of walking groups a week. “I thought they were boring so why would I ever go on one? I thought they were for fitness freaks.
“But as time has gone by in this job, I’ve realised that it’s how you define the word ‘active’. I was doing my own decorating, mowing the lawn, or getting a plank of wood out for DIY. You can class that as active, but when it comes to exercise, I didn’t really do anything.
“It’s also brought to my mind how walking is no longer a boring thing to do. You benefit from the walking, not just physically, but mentally. I took time out the other week to stop and take photos, to look at nature. I’m taking notice of my surroundings and I’m more aware of where I live.
“I keep talking about this feeling inside, and I wish I could bottle it. It’s like your heart is bursting.
“I leave the house, lock the door and I’ve got my high-vis jacket on. As soon as I step away from the door I can feel that excitement – you know how you get at Christmas? It’s that feeling and you’re on top of the world. It’s a lovely feeling.”
Evidence has proved that 10 minutes of brisk walking a day improves a person’s mood, their quality of life, and a 15% reduction in risk of early death.
It is also something that is supporting Angela with fibromyalgia, a long-term condition where symptoms vary person-to-person, but often involve widespread pain and increased tiredness. Angela was diagnosed in 2009, but believes the condition went undiagnosed for more than 20 years before that.
Why it may be a natural instinct to respond to a condition that creates fatigue by doing less, Angela says she is benefitting by doing more.
“It affects people in different ways,” she explains. “It causes fatigue and it can be debilitating.
“I’ve got to monitor what I do physically and mentally, because when it hits me I’ve got to sleep. My batteries are never fully charged but I won’t let it beat me or define who I am.
“I have to get up in the morning, get washed, get dressed and come out. My main focus is what I’m doing and not sitting on the sofa and watching TV. If that was my life – as it was once – I would be ten times worse than I am.
“It’s made a vast difference. I love the company of the people anyway. After walking up the Craggs, I used to lay down and have a kip. But I’m finding now, the more I’m doing, the more I can do. It’s enhancing my walking.
“Around my corner is the slightest incline, and it pulled on my legs. In the last few weeks, it hasn’t done that. With the condition, I don’t have much strength, but walking has built up my strength.
“I always used to get the bus and dread walking home. I was paying £17 a week, and for what? Two miles? It’s about a twenty minute walk, now. It has become normal for me to walk home. With the money I’m saving, I’ve been able to treat myself to a few extra things.”
For information on how walking can benefit you, visit the NHS website. If you have a long-term condition and want advice on guidance for how physical activity could help you manage your symptoms, visit the We Are Undefeatable website.