Prevention is better than cure

News from Walking for Health – England’s largest network of health walk schemes, run in partnership by the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Ten of the leading health and social care charities have launched a new report today – What is preventing progress?. Stressing the need for action to tackle common risk factors for preventable disease, the report calls on all political parties to make prevention a top priority.

In 2011, the UK Government signed up to the World Health Organisation (WHO) goal to reduce deaths from the major preventable diseases – cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes - by 25% by the year 2025. The report makes it clear that if this goal is to be achieved, government, the NHS, public services, charities and patients must work together immediately to put prevention first.

We are delighted to see the report, and couldn’t agree more that prevention has to be a key priority throughout all levels of government. Since 2000, Walking for Health has played a vital role across communities in England, helping the least active get active and enjoy the many benefits that walking brings for physical and mental wellbeing. The evidence for walking’s contribution to preventing and managing many common and often interlinked health conditions has been mounting for years.

Macmillan Cancer Support is one of the ten charities behind the report, collectively known as The Richmond Group of Charities. As one of the partners that run the Walking for Health programme Macmillan, alongside the Ramblers, has made a long term commitment to promoting physical activity for everyone – including those affected by cancer.

Preventable ill health costs the NHS and the wider economy a lot of money. It’s in everyone’s best interests to encourage more people to be more active, more often. Walking is the simple solution and it’s proven to work - if everyone in a town of 150,000 people all walked briskly for an extra 10 minutes a day, 31 lives would be saved with benefits of at least £30million a year.

Jackie Hayhoe, Programme Manager for Walking for Health said “There are common lifestyle influences with many diseases, and inactivity is one of the four biggest risk factors. But it’s not enough just to tell people to be more active as there are some real barriers to overcome – like age, health, time commitments, cost and confidence.

“Many millions of people in this country are active for no more than half an hour a week, including almost half of all adults in the lowest income household. These are the people that could most benefit from being more active. But for most of them, more vigorous activities like traditional sports feel out of reach. Walking, on the other hand, is a free, low impact exercise that almost everyone can do from their doorstep, with no need for expensive equipment or training.

“Walking for Health provides a supportive and fun environment where people can discover the joys of walking at their own pace, on a ‘drop in’ basis. Schemes across England are run by all sorts of organisations; the NHS, local authorities, charities and volunteer groups. The common aim is to provide everyone with access to a short, free and friendly walk within easy reach of where they live, to help them become and stay active. Walking can play a huge role in helping to prevent disease and meet the WHO goal of getting 1,300,000 more people physically active by 2025.”

Read The Richmond Group of Charities report What is preventing progress? and follow the conversation on the Walking for Health twitter and facebook.

Hear how walking helped Ian Rigby beat cancer.