What stops people walking?

According to research and experience, the most frequently reported reasons for not walking are:

  • Lack of time
  • The weather
  • Unattractive walking environments
  • Fears for safety and personal security
  • Lack of knowledge of the walking environment and/or of the benefits and ease of walking
  • Lack of motivation

People tend to overestimate walking time and distance, often misled by inaccurate perceptions of local walking geography and inadequate information.

Overcoming barriers

Other European countries have higher walking levels than the UK and less inactivity-related health problems such as obesity.

95% of adults agree that walking is a good way to stay healthy and 82% agree it is a good way to lose weight. 73% of adults agree that pedestrians should be given more priority. 97% believe we should be encouraged to walk more to improve health, 94% to improve the environment and 92% to ease congestion.

Key motivators to walking include:

  • Socialising with friends and family
  • Relaxing and getting time to think
  • Getting more active, and controlling weight
  • Exploring the environment
  • Enjoying the outdoors.

People with initially negative attitudes to walking quickly become more positive if they can be persuaded to participate in walking, including those from deprived communities.

An effective community based approach is essential when encouraging inactive people to walk, working with existing community organisations and carefully targeting messages and activities.

Between 25% and 40% of car trips in urban ares are less than 3km/2 miles (about 45 minutes walk). For about half of these, there are practical or physical reasons that favour the car, but the rest could in principle be walked (or cycled) instead, and are only taken by car as a result of habits and attitudes.

For more about overcoming barriers to walking, complete with full references, download our Walking Participation factsheet.