A PENSIONER who started walking, lost 21 pounds and improved his mental health is urging others to follow in his footsteps.

Cliff Waghorn, from Chester-le-Street, started walking in 2016 after the death of his wife of 48-years.

Initially struggling with breathlessness due to having Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, two years after joining a weekly walking group, he says he no longer needs to use one of his inhalers and has lost 21 pounds in weight, improved his mental health and made dozens of friends.

The 75-year-old has shared his story during National Walking Month in a bid to get others to sign up.

He said: "I was visiting Beamish Museum one day and a lady dressed up in 1900s costume asked if she could walk with me. She then told me all about the walking group on a Friday. The rest is history, I never miss a walk now.”

“The walks have made a huge difference. I’ve met so many lovely people and look forward to the walks – I don’t feel lost anymore!

I’ve lost weight and my lung capacity has increased enormously. I used to get out of breath climbing the stairs but not anymore.”

He added: "One of the main benefits, apart from improving my physical fitness was the social aspect of mixing and chatting with like-minded people. The combination of exercise and social interaction is everything I was looking for.

“The walks have been the making of me, I really don’t know what I’d do without the Walk Durham scheme, it’s totally changed my life.”

Mr Waghorn is a regular member of the Beamish Museum Walk Durham group and has joined two other groups, walking between nine and 12 miles a week.

Stephen Clough, Durham County Council’s physical activity officer, said: “Walking is a great way to improve fitness and our health walks are designed for people of all levels and abilities, no-one is ever left behind.

“Walking is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise and can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 50 per cent. It can also reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes and some cancers as well as helping you to manage your weight, improve your mood and boost your self-esteem."

“There’s no need to book to attend a Walk Durham session, so there’s no need to make a major commitment, people can just turn up on the day and give it a go.”

Details of all Walk Durham sessions, which last between 30 and 90 minutes, can be found online at www.durham.gov.uk/walkdurham or by calling 03000 266 555.