Guest blog by Ian McCall – Senior Development Officer at Paths for All
Getting active through walking is the easiest path to better health and longer healthy lives and will take pressure off our hard pressed health and social care services.
Walking is such an outstanding opportunity for effective preventative spending that we must bring it back into our daily lives and put it at the heart of our health service.
What support do we need in Scotland to live healthier lives?
One of the most effective ways to improve the health of our population is to increase physical activity levels – and walking has been proven to be the most popular, accessible and effective way of doing this.
We need to help people be more active by making walking part of all our daily lives – with walking for health and travel being seen as the social norm. This needs to be supported by an environment that is conducive, safe and welcoming. Community led, effective, local walking opportunities are also an important way to get people active.
The National Walking Strategy and Long-term Vision for Active Travel in Scotland should deliver this.
What areas of health and social care matter most to you?
Getting people active through walking is a great way to support better health and longer healthy lives – taking pressure off health and social care services. This is an important opportunity for effective preventative spend as recommended by the Christie Commission and is particularly important in a time of increasing pressure on budgets, reduced resources and an ageing population. It is also important to support self-management of long term conditions – including enabling people to keep active.
The economic benefits associated with increased physical activity levels far outweigh the costs. Cost Benefit Ratios for walking developments show significant value for money. Social Return on Investment (SROI) evidence shows a return of approximately £8 for every £1 invested in health walk and path development projects.
Thinking about the future of health and social care services, where should our focus be?
Walking should be at the heart of our health and social care services and we should focus on providing opportunities, signposting activities and informing Health & Social Care Professionals. Avenues that should be explored are including the provision of physical activity advice in GP contracts and on relevant content in undergraduate courses.
The importance of preventative spending and the need for sustained funding for walking as part of that cannot be overemphasised. The work of Paths for All and our partners can play an important role in getting people walking more – which will bring multiple health benefits over the longer term. Supporting older adults to be active must be a priority.
The National Walking Strategy
Increasing physical activity is crucially important for the mental and physical health of our country. Big health gains come from getting inactive people more active, particularly in the outdoors, and the easiest way for most of us is through walking more.
Walking is cheap, accessible and fun – almost everyone can do it – and has been described as the “magic pill” for health.
The National Walking Strategy makes the links between getting active and health and has three strategic aims:
- Create a culture of walking
- Better walking environments throughout Scotland
- Ensure easy, convenient independent mobility for all
Paths for All is a Scottish charity founded in 1996. We champion everyday walking as the way to a happier, healthier Scotland. We want to get Scotland walking: everyone, everyday, everywhere.
Our aim is to significantly increase the number of people who choose to walk in Scotland – whether that’s for leisure or walking to work, school, the shops or to a nearby public transport hub. We want to create a happier, healthier Scotland where increased physical activity improves quality of life and wellbeing for all. We work to develop more opportunities and better environments not just for walking, but also for cycling and other activities, to help make Scotland a more active, more prosperous, greener country.
Our work supports the delivery of the Scottish Government’s National Walking Strategy (NWS) and the Long-term Vision for Active Travel in Scotland, community and workplace health walking, path network development and active travel policy development. We are a partnership organisation with 28 national partners. Our funders include the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Macmillan, The Life Changes Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland and Awards for All.
Paths for All and our partners are involved in a number of key areas of work that support the National Walking Strategy and plans for a healthier Scotland. We are very keen to engage more with the health and social care sector to share our experience and raise awareness of the opportunities.
- Health walks – local walking projects across Scotland – training, resources and support
- Strength and Balance – for example in care homes – training, resources and support
- Step count challenge – workplace team walking challenges
- Workplace – training, resources and support
- The Alliance – promoting walking for staff and patients in Links/Deep End GP practices and for people with long term conditions
- Medal Routes and app – including hubs in health care settings
- World Walking and app
- Macmillan – promoting walking for people affected by cancer
- Dementia Friendly Walking Project – training, resources and support – funded by the Life Changes Trust
- Community paths – training, resources and support to create active environments
- Active travel – including the Smarter Choices Smarter Places Fund – encouraging travel behaviour change
- Walking football – supporting the development of local Walking Football opportunities across Scotland
- Working with NHS Health Scotland in developing the Exemplar Physical Activity Employer Award
- Cobranded research project into increasing the activity of dog walkers on the National Forest Estate in Scotland.
- The Big Fit Walk takes place annually in June and aims to inspire communities across Scotland to come together for a short walk to celebrate the benefits of being active.