More GPs should prescribe walking to improve mental health and long-term physical health conditions, says a new report published today (Friday 6 March) by Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking.  

‘Is Walking a Miracle Cure? focuses on the health benefits of walking and argues that towns and cities designed for walking will significantly improve physical health and mental wellbeing.  

The report makes recommendations under ten headings, including an increase in ‘social prescribing’ with an emphasis on walks in parks and green spaces because of growing evidence of the benefits of walking in nature to mental health outcomes; and promoting walking for disabled people or those with long-term health conditions as part of health checks 

Walking on the pavement

Other recommendations include: adopting the Department for Education’s healthy schools rating scheme to increase active travel to and from school; assessing all new housing developments to ensure services, leisure and employment opportunities are within walking distance; and prioritising low traffic neighbourhoods to increase walking and cycling rates.  

Dame Jane Roberts, Honorary Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Chair of Living Streets, said:   

“We are facing a physical inactivity crisis with obesity levels at a record high and increasing concerns about mental ill-health problems across the nations. And we are in the midst of a climate emergency with air pollution responsible for over 40,000 premature details a year. Walking is the free, easy and accessible solution. Why would we not do more of it? 

The negative impact of our car-centric lifestyles can be seen all around us, with physical activity levels on the decline and poor health conditions related to air pollution on the rise. We can start to turn this around with streets that are better for walking and cycling.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Andy continues:

"The time to act is now, and Greater Manchester is drawing up a blueprint for the whole country to follow.

"Working together with our Cycling and Walking Commissioner Chris Boardman, we’ve set out our vision for the Bee Network – 1,800 miles of protected space for cycling and walking that will help people make 2.5 million journeys by foot and by bike every day, cutting travel times and improving health and wellbeing."

The report launches at Living Streets’ National Walking Summit in Manchester today (Friday 6 March), with guest speakers including World Champion athletes Dame Sarah Storey and Chris Boardman MBE; neuroscientist Professor Shane O’Mara; and Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. 

‘Is Walking a Miracle Cure?’ is authored by Dr Rachel Lee and Holly Barden.