Our latest report, launched in time for our National Walking Summit in Manchester, is entitled Is Walking a Miracle Cure?
Our Policy and Research Assistant, Holly, discusses why the timing of its release matters, and takes us through some of its key findings.
If physical activity were a drug, we would refer to it as a miracle cure, due to the great many illnesses it can prevent and treat.
This is what the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMO) say about walking and it provides the inspiration behind our latest publication: ‘Is walking a miracle cure?’, launching today (6th March) in time for our National Walking Summit held in Manchester.
We know that keeping active makes us feel better physically and mentally and helps to keep us healthy as we age. We focus on walking specifically because its free, accessible, non-polluting, and can be easily integrated into everyday life.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says walking is “the most likely way all adults can achieve the recommended levels of physical activity” . But we still don’t do enough of it. Over 60% of journeys of 1-2 miles that could be walked are still made by car . So why are we not walking more?
Our report explores some of the barriers (both habitual and physical) which prevent us from walking more. For example, how car dependency built into new developments compels us to drive even the shortest of journeys. Walking environments end up busy, noisy and polluted – with deprived communities worst affected – which deters our more vulnerable road-users from walking more.
There is also no single up-to-date design standard for walking, nor a fully developed tool able to identify where interventions to improve walking networks are needed. The result is that walking is heavily undervalued relative to other modes, receiving just a fraction of the investment road and rail are designated.
What interests us is how we can overcome these challenges and ensure walking and better walking environments are championed as part of the solution to our public health crises. Our recommendations fall under ten headings. Here are some of the highlights:
We think health practitioners should increase the social prescribing of walking to patients – especially those with pre-existing health conditions. This could be accompanied by the launch of a major public awareness campaign promoting walking as the easiest way to increase physical activity levels.
Ultimately, walking creates healthier minds, bodies and communities, and of course contributes to a carbon-free future. Yet, because of its habitual nature, it gets taken for granted. We hope our report helps to change minds and influences policymakers incorporate walking into the way we design our towns and cities, or that it simply inspires people to walk more.
It’s time to get up and walk our way to a better life.