THE LANARKSHIRE health board has launched a mountain biking program to support the mental health of patients.

The Trail Therapy Project takes participating patients on biking trips around the area and teaches them skills such as maintaining and repairing bikes.

Founded by mental health nursing and occupational therapy staff in partnership with Scottish Cycling, the program promotes sport as a way to sport and improve mental health.

Susan Cairns, advanced practitioner occupational therapist, NHS Lanarkshire, said: “I’m thrilled with how the Trail Therapy Project has developed and supported patients since it launched.

“The majority of patients have now purchased their own bikes and are cycling out with the group times, it has also given staff the skills to use cycling as a treatment activity for relevant patients.

“One of our patients was loaned a bike as part of his occupational therapy treatment as a way of coping, which he used when experiencing increased symptoms of anxiety. He has reported a reduction in the use of his medication since this was introduced which is fantastic.

“We’re continually developing the programme to include bike maintenance classes, maintaining bikes for local schools and lending bikes to patients for one-to-one sessions.

“The big goal for this year is for the group to ride the trails at the Nevis Range mountain experience, the highest in the UK, which I’m sure they’ll triumph!”

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Patient-turned-qualified mountain bike leader, James, said: “Before I joined the program, I was an inpatient. I was introduced to Trail Therapy through occupational theraphy, and I’ve never looked back!

“I started to enjoy my cycling more and more, from there I was asked if I’d like to become a mentor, and that’s where I am today.

"I feel brilliant being able to support others, participants know I started from where they are now and I think they look up to me in a way. Recovery to me is about progress rather than perfection.”