Charities say investment needed so everyone benefits from Scottish walks

Young adults walking

Two Scottish charities are calling for more investment in recreational walking after new research uncovered what prevents people from walking in their free time.

Ramblers Scotland and Paths for All commissioned the major review into the factors that encourage and deter people from walking for leisure in Scotland. 

The University of Edinburgh’s Barriers and Facilitators to Recreational Walking review has collated evidence from almost 30 different studies – and made a dozen recommendations for interventions and research that could encourage more people to walk for fun.

It highlighted the potential benefits of investing in good quality paths, and clearer information about routes and their difficulty – targeted towards people who are least likely to walk. 

Academics also found evidence to suggest: 

  • The wealthiest fifth of adults in Scotland are three times more likely to hill-walk or ramble than the poorest fifth
  • Men can be reluctant to improve their health through walking, thinking it “may be for women”
  • Scotland’s scenery motivates many people to walk, but more could be done to use the nation’s landscapes to inspire days out on foot
  • Walking as part of a sociable group or with a dog motivates people to walk.

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy said: “We know that the number of people walking in their free time is booming – up from 57 per cent in 2011 to 68 per cent in 2018.

“However, this report highlights that we must do more to build on this progress and ensure that everybody in Scotland enjoys the benefits of walking. That means investing in paths, access and signs, as well as new initiatives aimed specifically towards people who rarely get out on foot.”

The university findings have been published just one month after a public opinion survey commissioned by Paths for All revealed similar motivators and barriers to walking.

Ian Findlay CBE, chief officer at Paths for All, said: “Walking is one of the best and easiest ways to improve our physical, social and mental health so it’s very important that we understand the reasons that prevent people from walking or walking more often.

“Our own recently-published public opinion survey shows that Scots are walking more than they did five years ago with 55 per cent of adults walking every day. 

“However, both our own survey and this jointly-commissioned report show that there are still barriers to overcome. We are continuing to work with our partners to do what we can to break down these barriers and make it easier for people to walk as part of their everyday lives.”

The University of Edinburgh report was published by an academic team including Dr Paul Kelly and Professor Nanette Mutrie. It gathers together relevant evidence on the subject since 2002, from 29 different academic studies, mostly based on Scottish-only research.

Download the full report here.