London 2012 legacy plans back walking as way to tackle inactivity

Walking for Health group

The UK Government, the Mayor of London and Olympic and Paralympic Ambassador Lord Coe have committed to promoting physical activity across the nation as part of legacy plans from the London 2012 Games.

Moving More, Living More: The Physical Activity Olympic and Paralympic Legacy for the Nation, which was unveiled earlier this month, emphasises the “massive opportunities” for physical activity to turn around the nation’s health and economy, as well as benefit society as a whole.

And walking is highlighted as a crucial part of the solution with a call to put walking opportunities at the heart of communities, with good signage and “clear, well lit, clutter free walking routes” which connect with public transport as well as seeking a commitment from local authorities to promote walking.

Individuals are also being encouraged to use walking as the first step to being more physically active, with Walking for Health, which we run with Macmillan Cancer Support, highlighted as an “accessible and social way" to get into a healthy lifestyle.

Getting children and young people more active is also a key focus, with proposals for more safer routes to schools and walking crocodiles. And employers are asked to help staff get more active during working hours.

The report calls for a joint approach, bringing together councils, government agencies and the NHS with charities and voluntary organisations, and celebrates what it calls “the boundless creativity and hard work” involved in existing initiatives to get people active.

But it avoids committing more money to promoting physical activity, limiting its proposals to “the targeted and effective use of existing resources and joining these up better,” despite noting that the inactivity epidemic could be costing the UK £20billion a year.

The legacy plans follow the release of new statistics that show 40% of adults and over 80% of children in England aren’t active enough for their health according to current guidelines and almost a third of adults in the lowest income households are active for less than 30 minutes a week. Meanwhile, other research has shown local authorities invest less than 3% of their health budgets on average on promoting physical activity.

“Physical inactivity is becoming one of our biggest public health problems, and walking is the major part of the solution” said Simon Barnett, Ramblers Director of Delivery and Development.

“We very much welcome this initiative and look forward to working together to achieve the ambition of a much more physically active nation,” continued Simon. "But we need to recognise that this will take detailed planning, long-term, sustained action and significant investment as well as good intentions.”

For tips on getting going with walking and how to help kids enjoy exploring on foot, visit our advice for walkers section. For more information about Walking for Health, or to find your local scheme, visit www.walkingforhealth.org.uk.