Jeff walking in the woods

Feel your personal best - Jeff

“When walking, my mood changes and positives come from it.”

After turning 50, his kids leaving home for university and the passing of his father, Jeff Zycinski’s wellbeing took a dip. He was mildly depressed, feeling very low and resorted to eating as a way of support. Overweight at 20 stone, Jeff went to his GP and therapist who both suggested walking as a potential remedy.

“Walking has completely changed my life. I was suffering from various health issues and went to the doctors for advice. It was recommended I take up walking and I’ve never looked back.

“After 20 minutes of walking I began to feel my mood would change. I would feel calmer, I could think straight and I enjoyed being out on my own in the countryside.

"I started walking every day and within a couple of months I had lost nearly 5 stone!”

“My wife always say’s I’m happier when I come back from a walk and it’s true.”

Jeff’s wellbeing improved, and he always found time to get out for a walk.

Fast forward a couple of years and Jeff suffered another setback after being diagnosed with mouth and tongue cancer. He was head of BBC Radio Scotland and had been involved in radio for over 30 years, he was scared he may lose part of his identity.

“Being told I had mouth cancer and the potential of not being able to speak properly again was very tough to take. Working in radio, your voice is your personality, and I was worried that I may lose that.”

After a major operation and an intense recovery period, Jeff found himself leaving hospital in the middle of a pandemic, with reduced speech ability and low on confidence.

“It was a rollercoaster of emotion. I was cancer free and given the all clear, but I was also thinking so what now? I was almost unintelligible on the phone, I didn’t want to see anyone, I was feeling down, and I was trying to rediscover myself.

Once again at a challenging time in his life, Jeff again turned to walking to help lift his mood. And his walks would also give him the opportunity to work on his speech.  

“I was determined not to let this hamper my quality of life, and so I used walking to practise exercises given to me by an NHS therapist.

"Many of these involved the kind of tongue twisters we used to have fun with as kids.

“It was less embarrassing to spout these when alone in the countryside or along the riverbank when no one else was around.

“My speech gradually started to improve, and walking was making me feel happier. There are still days when I don’t want to go walking, but I make myself go and I’m always glad I do. My mood changes and positive comes from it. I think clearer, I’m happier, my worries disappear, and I’m more creative.

“We all have to find the sport or fitness activity that suits us best.”

Supporting others

In 2021, Jeff left BBC Radio Scotland to take up a new challenge as head of health and wellness charity, Partnerships for Wellbeing. The charity support people in the Highlands to live happier and healthier lifestyles through a community transport service and group health walks linked through the walking charity Paths for All.

The charity run 12 weekly one-hour health walks across the Highlands for people socially isolated, bereaved or looking to meet others, while improving their wellbeing.

Jeff, himself, is a trained walk leader and takes many of the walks in his local area. He uses his experiences to empathise and support others.

Find out more

Physical activity is central to good mental health and wellbeing. By finding ways to fit activity into your day, you will feel a difference in your mood and energy levels. SAMH, Public Health Scotland and sportscotland are working together to help you #FeelYourPersonalBest.


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