Julia Bradbury and Helen Skelton among stars fronting mental health campaign encouraging people to get outside
“The first thing I did was sit outside in my garden. It was October, I was very lucky there was a bit of winter sunshine,” recalls the presenter and author, who underwent the surgery, along with reconstruction, weeks after being diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2021.
“I sat on my garden bench and lapped up the light and listened to the birds, and I made a promise to myself that I would be outside every single day of my life from that day forward, come rain or shine.”
Despite already being known for her love of being active in the outdoors – appearing on the likes of BBC One’s Countryfile, and with a string of TV shows and books on walking under her belt – Bradbury, who has three children with husband Gerard Cunningham, says cancer made her “re-examine” her “entire lifestyle”.
The 53-year-old explains: “It’s one of the most shocking things you can ever hear in your lifetime, when you hear the words, ‘You’ve got cancer’, it just blows your world apart. But I’m happy to say that two-and-a-half years on the other side of my diagnosis, I am doing very well.
“I’ve taken a brand-new approach to my health, which has been to re-examine my entire lifestyle and look at every aspect of my life – from the way I sleep to the way that I spend my downtime, the food I eat, the way I exercise, and how much time I spend outside, which actually wasn’t enough.”
“Even though I’m that woman on the telly that does all the walking – walking across borders and landscapes – what I realised was, I didn’t have very good habits. Although these are things I was doing regularly and I’m genuinely passionate about, I wasn’t building them into my day,” adds Bradbury, who lives in London with her family but mostly grew up in the Peak District. “I wasn’t getting my morning light every single morning, I certainly wasn’t going to bed at the right time or prioritising sleep, which now I know is fundamental to our health, it’s one of our pillars.”
For the second year running, Bradbury has teamed up on the ‘Hats On For Mind’ campaign, along with fellow outdoor enthusiasts Helen Skelton, David Seaman, Sean Fletcher and Gethin Jones. They have launched an exclusive limited-edition range of woolly hats and flasks available in selected retailers, with profits going to the mental health charity, Mind.
It is hoped the collection, in partnership with Go Outdoors, encourages the nation to head outside in support of their mental wellbeing this winter to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. “There is something about movement, particularly the rhythm of walking, it does help you think,” Bradbury reflects. “It sounds like a bit of a cliche, but it does clear the head and really helps compute thoughts and feelings and emotions.”