Our Policy Assistant Holly Smith analyses some recent statistics from the Department for Transport showing that one-third of adults walk for less than 10 minutes a week.
On Thursday, the Department for Transport released their annual report on Walking & Cycling in the UK for 2015/16. Not uncommonly for this type of report, there was a mixture of good news – UK adults think walking is one of the most enjoyable ways to get around – and not-so-good news – we are walking quite a bit less than we did 10 years ago.
But as I was analysing the report, thinking about what all these numbers mean for Living Streets, there was one statistic in particular that really caught my attention. It’s that 68% of adults in England walk for at least 10 minutes, once a week. After some statistical wizardry (otherwise known as 100-68), this means that 32% – almost one-third – of adults walk for less than 10 minutes a week.
I’ll admit, I was surprised. This is quite a big jump from just the year before, when the figure was closer to 20%. Not only that, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommend that we all aim to do 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommend that adults should aim to do 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, in blocks of 10 minutes
But I get it, life is busy. With jobs and kids and chores, it can be hard to find the time for a walk. Not to mention that cold winter days aren’t exactly the most inviting! But I’m hoping that I might be able to persuade you that a brisk walk really is worth your while (and then at the end I’ll give you some of my tips for making walking work in your life).
Almost every week, new research is published on the health and wellbeing benefits of taking a regular walk. Walking has been shown to reduce the risk of a number of preventable health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Only a few days ago, we learned that older adults can actually live longer by building up their leg muscles, for example by walking a few times a week. In fact, increased levels of walking and cycling could even save the NHS £17 billion pounds over the course of 20 years.
The health benefits of walking go beyond the body. Walking helps support our mental health, possibly by releasing endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers, improving our sleep, and helping us to feel more energised. We recently found out that walking to work reduces strain and stress and increases job satisfaction. Living Streets’ projects with older people have shown that getting out and about with friends, in safe and accessible streets, can have a huge effect on reducing social isolation.
And the benefits don’t stop there. From increasing footfall to local businesses, to helping tackled pollution and climate change, we all benefit from more walking. So how can we make it happen?
If we all walked & cycled more, this could save the NHS £17 billion pounds over 20 years!
Simple changes like getting off the bus one stop earlier quickly add up! I also try to explore my local area, finding new shops and cafes that I didn’t know were there – this is how I discovered my local fruit and veg market! About 10 minutes further away than Tesco, the prices are lower, the stallholders are lovely, and I get a walk in at the same time. What’s not to like? If you have trouble walking because of a physical condition, I would strongly recommend visiting your GP. They may be able to advise you on exercises or treatments to get you up and about.
And the good news is, the Department for Transport’s statistics also showed that people prefer walking to almost all other ways of getting about, including driving or taking public transport. So these little changes really will be worth it!
We are doing our bit to make sure your local area is safe and welcoming for everybody to walk in. Through our Walking Cities campaign, we are calling on local leaders to be a champion for walking in their city. And we are already seeing change: the Mayor of London has pledged to pedestrianise Oxford Street by 2020, and Greater Manchester’s Walking & Cycling Commissioner has published a plan to get more people in Manchester moving. Across the UK, our Local Groups are a community for change where they live, campaigning for important measures such as 20mph limits, better pedestrian crossings, and traffic restrictions around schools. Why not join or start a Local Group where you live?
We need cities designed around people not vehicles. And now's the time to put the case.
Find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved.
Blog: How a documentary revealed the power of walking to clean up our air.
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