A new campaign, backed by the Government, could help add four years to the lives of UK residents. Britain on Foot (BoF), which was launched today, aims to get one million currently inactive people engaged in outdoor activities, leading to healthy, happier, longer lives.
BoF is being led by a powerful coalition of trade and consumer organisations, such as the Outdoor Industries Association, British Mountaineering Council and Ramblers GB, along with outdoor companies, influential individuals and public bodies, including Visit England and Change4Life. The Government is also getting behind the campaign, and ministers from the Department of Health and Department of Culture Media & Sport (incorporating responsibility for tourism) have voiced their support.
Using outdoor activities to improve the health of the nation is a core objective of Britain on Foot, with academic research supporting the aims of the campaign. A major recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that doing just 150 minutes of light exercise a week (such as five 30 minute walks), can extend the average life span by over four years, with significant increases in life expectancy also recorded in those currently suffering from serious illnesses, such as cancer.
Poor physical fitness (cardio-respiratory fitness) has been shown by the British Journal of Sports Medicine to account for over 15% of early deaths in adults – that’s more than diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol combined. Consequently, Britain on Foot’s call to action to people to get walking and explore the UK’s readily accessible outdoor locations, has received widespread support.
Walking is a core activity being promoted through Britain on Foot and has been widely heralded by the medical community as one of the best ways to stay healthy and enjoy a long life. With over 150,000 miles of public footpaths and rights of way in the UK, stretching from major cities to the nation’s wildest landscapes, crucially, it is also free to enjoy and available to everyone.
Andrew Denton, chief executive of the Outdoor Industries Association, which developed the Britain on Foot campaign, said:
“Britain on Foot has huge potential and can make a real difference to the lives of people in the UK. Walking, along with many other outdoor activities, is such a simple route to a better lifestyle and it’s so easy to get started. This campaign will make it even easier, offering inspiration, ideas and practical support that will help get one million more people enjoying the outdoors and leading healthier, happier lives in the process.
“This campaign has already generated a huge amount of goodwill and practical support from a wide range of national and regional organisations, along with many outdoor businesses and high profile individuals. This clearly demonstrates a broad consensus that understands that Britain on Foot can make a massive positive impact to the people of the UK, driving real change which will see Britain’s great outdoors become a crucible of good health and wellbeing, as well as a wonderful environment to experience and enjoy.”
Benedict Southworth, Ramblers chief executive said: “We want people all over Britain to join the walking revolution and take their first steps towards a healthier and happier lifestyle. We’ve seen so many different people benefit from regular walking and we know it can make a positive impact on people’s lives.
“Find a short walk with your local Walking for Health scheme or Ramblers group during Get Walking Week and join us as we get Britain moving.”
Carey Davies was recently appointed as the British Mountaineering Council’s (BMC) first ever dedicated hill walking development officer. Carey comments:
“Britain on Foot represents a simple but powerful idea – that if people make the small step of starting walking it will open the way for huge positive changes in their lives, improving their individual health and wellbeing and enriching the fabric of our nation as a whole.
“In many ways Britain is already a nation of walkers. It is criss-crossed by an unrivalled 150,000-mile network of footpaths, we have big and bold mountains that are some of the most beautiful in the world, and we have a vibrant outdoors culture going back centuries. But there is still a lot more that can be done. Many people, particularly in urban areas, don’t realise how beneficial outdoor activity can be or how accessible the countryside is for walking and climbing.
“We all have a role to play in helping people get into the outdoors. The BMC represents hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers. Many of our 75,000 members play an active role in caring for the outdoor environment or campaigning for improved access. The BMC has supported Britain on Foot from the start as we want to see more people benefiting from the huge mental and physical rewards gained from actively exploring our mountains and countryside. A Britain on its feet is a better Britain for all of us.”
Brian Smith, chief executive of award winning activity holiday company HF Holidays, adds:
“The nation’s health, employment and prosperity; social, active enjoyment of our beautiful country and people getting together outdoors - what is there not to like? This is why HF Holidays is honoured to be part of Britain on Foot.”
David Rutley MP, Co Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mountaineering and Hillwalking, said: “I am delighted that so many organisations are coming together to support the Britain on Foot Campaign. Walking is one of the most enjoyable and easiest ways to get fit. It has many health benefits and is affordable, making it easy for anyone to involved. I hope Britain on Foot will encourage even more people to take the first step to walking for pleasure and fitness.”