Walking is the closest thing to perfect exercise, Britain's most popular and accessible informal physical activity and the most sustainable mode of transport. Encouraging more walking can deliver benefits not only to public health and sustainable transport but to the economy and social life.
Yet decision makers have been slow to recognise the importance of walking. In the recent past, much of the physical and social environment in Britain has been reshaped to favour and encourage motorised transport, with the needs of walkers (and other non-motorised users like cyclists) deprioritised and neglected. One result of this is a much less physically active society – with serious consequences for public health. Other negative impacts include pollution, congestion and the social exclusion of people without access to cars.
Things are now changing for the better with politicians, planners and the health sector increasingly recognising the benefits and importance of walking as an easily accessible healthy physical activity and a sustainable form of everyday transport that can form the basis of more liveable communities. But levels of investment in promoting walking and improving the walking environment are still pitifully low in comparison with the relative cheapness of walking interventions and the major benefits they could deliver.
These pages make the case for walking in a handy digest of facts, figures and key arguments.