Over a fifth (22%) of the UK population never walk for exercise or leisure at all – and nearly half of people (46%) never walk to or for work, according to new research for National Walking Month.

A survey commissioned by Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, shows that Glasgow is the top city in the UK for walking, with the highest proportion of people (86%) saying they sometimes walk purely for leisure or exercise

However, Nottingham is the city with the lowest proportion of people (68%) who ever head out to get some exercise by walking.

Brighton, Liverpool, Sheffield and Cardiff are also in the top five cities for walking. But Plymouth, Manchester, Bristol and Newcastle come in the bottom five.

over a fifth of people never walk
top 5 motivators for walking

The new data shows that two thirds of the whole UK population (68%) claim to walk for at least 20 minutes each day for exercise or leisure.

National Walking Month, which is organised by Living Streets every May, is this year encouraging everyone to #Try20, and walk for 20 minutes each day. Walking is an easy and accessible way to improve physical and mental health. A 20-minute walk can reduce the risk of preventable health conditions including certain cancers, depression, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The survey has also revealed that a third of people (32%) say they have less time for walking now than they did during lockdown, because they are socialising more. Nearly half of people (46%) feel guilty for walking less now that lockdown is over.

According to Living Streets’ survey, the biggest motivators for people to get out and walk are fresh air (46%), to maintain fitness and physical health (36%) and to improve mental health and wellbeing (35%).

Other reasons for walking are to lose weight (29%), to connect with nature (21%) and to exercise my pet (19%).

People find the biggest barriers to walking to be bad weather (50%) and concerns about not feeling safe walking alone (19%). Other reasons for not walking include not having time (16%), concerns about e-scooters (11%), air pollution (11%) and traffic (10%).

Over half of people say they notice an effect on their weight if they don’t walk (52%) or notice an effect on their mental health (53%).

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets said:

“It is encouraging that two thirds of us walk for at least 20 minutes a day. But it is very concerning that so many people never walk for exercise or leisure at all – and such a high proportion of people don’t walk to or for work.

“Walking is good for our minds, our bodies and our neighbourhoods. Walking for short journeys, instead of driving, helps to reduce congestion, road danger and air pollution. Even a short, brisk walk can have fantastic mental and physical health benefits, helping to prevent long-term chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression and improving the management of existing conditions.

“Walking is a great way to exercise and socialise at the same time. Active people report higher levels of mental wellbeing and are more likely to be satisfied with their life, feel happier and less anxious – and walking together can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. With lockdown restrictions lifted and the weather getting nicer, it’s time for us to walk back together.”

Percentage of people in UK cities who say they sometimes walk for exercise or leisure

  • Glasgow – 86%
  • Brighton – 84%
  • Liverpool – 83%
  • Sheffield – 82%
  • Cardiff – 81%
  • Leeds – 80%
  • Birmingham – 80%
  • Belfast – 78%
  • Southampton – 78%
  • Norwich – 77%
  • London – 77%
  • Edinburgh – 76%
  • Newcastle – 76%
  • Bristol – 76%
  • Manchester – 74%
  • Plymouth – 71%
  • Nottingham – 68%

What are the biggest walking motivators?

  1. To get fresh air (46%)
  2. To maintain fitness and physical health (36%)
  3. To improve mental health and wellbeing (35%)
  4. To lose weight (29%)
  5. To connect with nature (21%)
  6. To exercise my pet (19%)
  7. To count my daily steps (17%)
  8. To save money (13%)
  9. To spend time with friends/family (12%)
  10. To help reduce congestion and air pollution (5%)

… and what are the barriers to walking?

  1. Bad weather (50%)
  2. Don’t feel safe walking alone (19%)
  3. Lack of suitable walking routes (16%)
  4. Places I need to go are not within walking distance (16%)
  5. I don’t enjoy walking alone (16%)
  6. I don’t have time to walk (16%)
  7. Worried about e-scooters (11%)
  8. Air pollution (11%)
  9. Worried about traffic (10%)
  10. Worried about parked cars (9%)

Get the spring back into your step this May


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