By Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport, Welsh Government
(in Volume 25)
Ken Skates Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport Welsh Government Public Health and Outdoor Recreation April 2015
As the warmer weather approaches, so the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and the health benefits this brings, are increased.
Here in Wales we are blessed with beautiful coastal and rural landscapes which are just waiting to be explored and enjoyed.
There is something for everyone, from a simple walk to horse riding or cycling. There are plenty of reasons for people to get off the sofa and enjoy the great outdoors.
However, the challenge remains in getting people to do just that.
The right level of physical activity has been described as the wonder drug of preventative measures, but it can only be a wonder if people use it.
We as a Government are committed to increasing the overall levels of physical activity of the nation and we know the important role outdoor recreation plays in this.
In fact, our current Programme for Government includes important commitments to improve public access to Wales’s wonderful outdoors.
We have already helped to put in place great opportunities for this, with many forests, mountains and moorlands already open to all through the Countryside Rights of Way Act; and improvements to our long distance path networks and our public rights of way.
What we must do now is work together to ensure that people are taking advantage of these opportunities and that these are offered to people of all ages and abilities.
We have to improve the offer, making opportunities for people to fit brief, fun-filled episodes of physical activity into their otherwise busy lives.
The Wales Coast Path is an excellent example of how we can achieve this and bring benefits to the economy.
Since 2008/9 we have invested around £25 million in access through the Wales Coast Path Development and Rights of Way Improvement Plan Implementation programmes.
A recent assessment of the health benefits of walking on the Wales Coast Path revealed that the economic value associated with improved health through walking on the Coast Path is £18.3million per year.
Earlier this year I set out my ambition to make Wales the most active nation in Europe. We all have a role to play if we are to achieve this goal.
It is clear the opportunities are there, the challenge I set in your annual conference is for you all to transform the way people use the outdoors to help us meet this ambition.
I hope we can work together to ensure people are getting the most out of our countryside and reaping the health benefits this brings.