The Ramblers welcome Sport England’s new five-year strategy launched this week, which brings a much-needed shift in focus from investment in conventional sports to a greater emphasis on physical activity and specifically, helping inactive people to become active.
We also welcome the announcement that Sport England will make more funding available for programmes that support people walking for leisure. This recognises what we already know: that walking is the closest thing to perfect physical activity, a free, easy, effective and - with 9.1 million adults in England walking recreationally for at least 30 minutes once a month – an incredibly popular accessible way of getting people active and healthy.
Towards an active nation sees Sport England investing £250m – 25% of its resources – into targeting the most inactive people. This includes strong action to:
- Tackle physical inactivity, backed by a dedicated budget of £120m over the next four years. This is good news for the 400 Walking for Health schemes that support inactive people and people with long term conditions, and help them to develop a physical activity habit with regular walks. The Ramblers and Macmillan have hosted the national Walking for Health programme since 2012. Every week, local Walking for Health schemes run over 1,800 free, friendly, short group walks that reach approximately 20,200 individuals.
- Support sports facilities, including a new Community Asset Fund offering grants of up to £150,000 to support and improve existing local infrastructure. Sport England recognise here that this isn’t just about venues, but also outdoor environments: in many areas one of these grants would go a long way towards enhancing, improving and protecting the paths, parks and other green spaces that millions of people rely upon for their regular dose of walking.
- Encourage volunteering, with a £30m new strategy to understand the motivations and barriers to people volunteering, and increase the number of volunteers in grassroots sport. Without our fantastic 25,000 volunteers the Ramblers would be unable to operate, and from leading group walks to clearing overgrown paths these volunteers require training and other forms of support which involve a significant financial cost. We know too there is potential to further increase our impact here, so action to identify and address the barriers here is very welcome.
- Measure behaviour and impact, replacing the current Active People Survey with an Active Lives survey which refocuses evaluation from purely participation levels to the benefits people get from becoming more active, including improved physical and mental health, individual development and social and community development.
In drafting this new strategy, Sport England received the input of many organisations including the Ramblers, Macmillan and local Walking for Heath schemes. We are delighted to see the new direction they have set as a response and look forward to working further with Sport England and other organisations in order to reverse the tide of physical inactivity and build an active, walking nation.