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Walking Works

Key Message

Walking makes people happy, keeps everyone healthy and can even save your life.


de Moor, Des. (2015). Walking Works: Making the case to encourage greater uptake of walking as a physical activity and recognise the value and benefits of Walking for Health. Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support: London, UK. 36 pp.


This report is an extensive overview of the mounting research into the life threatening consequences of inactivity, which concludes that walking is the answer.

One of the simplest, longest-running and most effective interventions to encourage walking is Walking for Health, England’s largest network of health walk schemes. Thoroughly tried and tested since it launched in 2000, Walking for Health is now run by the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support. Its 600 schemes across England offer free, short walks led by friendly, trained walk leaders.

Walking for Health overcomes a recognised barrier to becoming more active by providing opportunities for social contact. This is the top motivator for many participants and a mental health benefit in itself. Walking for Health is particularly successful at keeping older people active, and can help stop what is otherwise often a rapid decline in physical activity with age. For councils, health commissioners and other organisations interested in improving public health, supporting a health walks scheme under the Walking for Health umbrella contributes not only to the major health challenge of tackling the physical inactivity epidemic, but also to numerous other local and national policy objectives.


Walking is the most accessible physical activity, and already the most popular. It also has the greatest potential to grow, particularly among people disproportionately affected by low physical activity levels and poor health.
Walking addresses many of the reported barriers to being more active, such as lack of time, money, poor health and physical limitations119,120. It is also accessible to people from groups who could most benefit from being more active — such as older people or those on low incomes.

Walking is a recognised form of moderate physical activity that contributes towards achieving the CMO guidelines. As such, it delivers all the benefits to health and wellbeing that all physical activity can deliver, with the added benefit of remaining accessible to the majority of the population. A major study comparing the health impact of brisk walking with running found that walkers benefited as much as runners from a reduced risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease, and slightly more than runners from reduced cholesterol, so long as they used the same amount of energy by walking an equivalent distance over a longer time135. Some evidence also indicates that walking delivers particular benefits, especially among older people and in the field of mental health. For example, there is evidence associating walking in particular with significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline in older people. One study found a 12% reduction in risk of cognitive decline for every hour walked over a sustained period136. Walking can also significantly improve control of blood sugar levels in older people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Through an integrated approach, local walking promotion can help fulfil many policy objectives — as well as bringing the many health benefits of physical activity to the community, it is the most sustainable form of transport, brings economic benefits to both urban and rural areas, and makes many other contributions to the wellbeing of local communities. 

In addition, walking brings economic benefits to both urban and rural areas. Areas with higher walking levels have been shown to have higher property prices153. In London, people walking to a town centre were found to spend an average of £93 a week there, compared with £56 for those who drove there154. In 2003, walkers in the English countryside were estimated to spend around £6.14 billion a year, generating income in excess of £2 billion and supporting up to 245,000 full-time jobs. 


Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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