AN Alzheimer’s Society Cymru survey reveals the impact of lockdown on people’s exercise habits in Wales.

Walking has taken a back seat through lockdown1, with the average UK adult reaching just 2,700 steps a day2 – a quarter of the recommended amount3.

A survey by Alzheimer’s Society Cymru shows that in Wales, the average daily step count sits just under this national figure, with 46% of those surveyed in Wales4 walking less than 1,000 steps a day.

Alzheimer’s Society Cymru is encouraging people to break lockdown bad habits and get active to raise money and beat dementia, by signing up to one of the charity’s several walking events.

People can register to do their own Memory Walk on Saturday 20 March, or another date in March that suits, or look to challenge themselves with a ready-made 13 or 26 mile trek in the summer in one of five iconic locations across the UK, including the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. All walks and challenges are Covid-19 secure and have all been specially adapted to accommodate social distancing.

Jonathan Curtis, who is from Caerphilly in South Wales, took part in last year’s Memory Walk, in memory of his parents who both passed away with dementia. Jonathan said:

“I was the only child to my parents Doris and Robert Curtis. I grew up in the South Valleys, just 20 miles north of Cardiff. In 2003, my mum Doris started receiving home care due to her age. At this time, the social worker from social services told me that mum was showing symptoms of dementia. In a way, she was diagnosed, without a formal diagnosis. Much less was known about dementia then comparatively to now and I remember being completely dumbstruck by what the nurse had said. I didn’t know much about dementia but I knew that it was devastating, and I went numb when I found out.

“Mum moved into a care home in 2004, and I quit my full-time job to care for dad who was starting to go downhill and I noticed dad’s memory was going. Then in 2006, dad was also diagnosed with dementia. I was better prepared for dad’s diagnosis, but I was still heartbroken.

“I found that walking was a great way of coping. I would walk around the South Wales Valleys, sometimes 10 miles or more. I would walk with dad too, and we’d walk together to visit mum in her care home.

“Dad passed away in 2009, and mum passed away 19 months later in October 2010. As an only child, mum and dad were more than just parents to me, they were my friends too.

“On the tenth anniversary of dad’s passing and the ninth anniversary to the day of mum’s, I took part in the 2019 Alzheimer’s Society Cymru Memory Walk. I did it on my own but I met lots of great people on the day who all shared their stories with me. I’m committed to the 2021 Memory Walk and I’m encouraging all my colleagues at work to join me.”

Also joining thousands of supporters set to embark on a new walking challenge in 2021 is TV star and long-time Memory Walk supporter Kevin Whately, who will endeavour to take on a Trek26 event for the first time.

The Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Lewis actor, whose mother Mary passed away with dementia in 2009, is encouraging the nation to take on a walking challenge this year following a devasting year for people with dementia.

He said: “I know from personal experience the impact dementia has on those affected and their families, coronavirus has only exacerbated these challenges further for thousands of families affected by the disease.

“I am lucky enough to have participated in several Memory Walks, which are always a wonderful way to celebrate and remember a loved one who has been impacted by dementia, as well as enjoying the physical and mental benefits of the great outdoors. I’m now looking forward to upping my steps by taking part in one of Alzheimer’s Society Cymru’s treks this summer.

“Money raised will help Alzheimer’s Society Cymru reach and support more people through the charity’s vital services, like the Dementia Connect support line, which have been a lifeline for thousands of people. I can’t think of a better reason to take on a new challenge.”

Sue Phelps, Country Director for Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, said:

“Coronavirus has turned life upside down for everyone, especially those affected by dementia. There are more than 45,000 people living with dementia in Wales. They have been worst hit by coronavirus in terms of deaths, both from the virus and knock-on effects of lockdown, and need us now more than ever.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has hit us hard financially, despite an unprecedented demand for our services. We want to continue to reach as many people as possible, which is why we’re calling on everyone to put their best foot forward and sign up to one of our walking events.”

Find out more at alzheimers.org.uk/events