By Melanie Jones
(in Volume 25)
The Ramblers helps everyone, everywhere, enjoy walking and protects the places we all love to walk. We are the only charity dedicated to looking after paths and green spaces, leading walks, opening up new places to explore and encouraging everyone to get outside and discover how walking boosts your health and your happiness.
At the heart of everything we do are our members who support our values and deliver the vast majority of our work by volunteering their time and energy. They also provide the majority of our funding. We have over 105,000 members who make up a network of around 500 local groups across England, Scotland and Wales and lead around 45,000 walks a year.
In 2012 Ramblers took a further step forward in helping the nation’s health by securing funding to be able to deliver two of the national health walking programs in GB;Let’s Walk Cymru in Wales, funded by the Welsh government; and Walking for Health in England, funded in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support.Between the two schemes there are over 700 community walking groups across England and Wales encouraging people to get more active through walking.
Walking is becoming a recognized health intervention for many chronic conditions and all walkers will get some benefit from walking, be it maintaining or improving physical health, improving mental health or increasing their group of friends.
Walking in groups encourages people to keep walking as well as providing wide ranging health benefits1 including reducing blood pressure, body fat, total cholesterol and risk of depression. In 2015 a systematic review found that there was potential for someone to reduce their blood pressure by 3mm HG1.A decrease of 2mm HG has a clinical significance and can reduce stroke mortality by 10%1, equating to the prevention of approximately 4000 deaths from stroke2.
Ramblers are celebrating our 80th birthday this year, and we have a proud history of supporting walkers in a variety of ways:
- We have our extensive and growing online ‘Ramblers Routes’ library of high quality walking routes.
- We provide walking information and training, both online and in print drawing on decades of experience and expertise.
- In Scotland we celebrated the Commonwealth Games legacy through our Medal Routes project. This encourages members of the public to design three short circular walking routes that start and finish at a ‘Hub’. The walks should to take approximately 15, 30 and 60 minutes and the hub is ideally somewhere in the community such as a café, sports centre, library, or health centre.
In Wales we continue to celebrate our amazing coastal path by challenging members of the public to take a virtual walk with our online Wales Pedometer challenge.
- We are also the guardians of Britain’s path network. When paths are blocked, overgrown or threatened with closure or diversion, we’ll work with the local council to resolve the issue. We kept 841 threatened paths open to walkers last year. Our eagle-eyed volunteers checked out over 1,300proposed changes to the path network and650 reports of path problems were received through our website. We also work to secure better access to the outdoors:
- We successfully campaigned for the development of the 870 mile Wales Coastal path, opened in May 2012, and are now campaigning for the completion of the England Coastal path.
- We were instrumental in the introduction of National Parks and National Trails.
- We heavily influenced the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which gives Scotland world-class rights of access across most land and water.
- We petitioned government to set up a national working group to look at the best way to secure a fantastic future for our national trails.
Our work helps the economy. In Wales 28 million walking related trips are made each year resulting in a £632 million direct spend by walkers3. This accounts for 16% of the total tourism in Wales, and is before accounting for the success of the Welsh Coast path.
We can only achieve all we do through our dedicated members. They include:
- 12,000 walk leaders in Ramblers groups offering a programme of more than 45,000 group walks annually, attracting 300,000 participants a year.
- 10,000 walk leaders across the health schemes
- 160 path maintenance teams working alongside local authorities. In 2014 their work was valued at £1 million a year.
- Local path and access volunteers across the country who in 2014 scored 650 ‘path successes’ in terms of paths unblocked, opened up or saved from development.
- 265 volunteers who have developed medal routes.
During the workshop at the ORN conference we looked at how to present walking to health professional in their language. We did this by working through the determinants of health model by Dahlgren and Whitehead(1992).
This is a well known behaviour change model that proposes that people behavior is affected by a number of things. Some of those things we can’t change such as age, sex genetics and they sit in the middle of the model. Then to change someone’s behavior we need to work from the outside arch inwards.
If the environmental conditions are correct people will engage in the next layer. For example if you live in a war zone your current work conditions will not worry you too much if you can’t get out of your house safely. So for walking if we want people to walk, the environment has to be right, there has to be easy access to nice and pleasant areas that feel safe and comfortable to walk in.
In the next arch there are some areas that we can influence as well;
- Ramblers can educate people to experience why walking is good, how to do it safely and comfortably, and where to do it.
- Ramblers can encourage them to walk through work place schemes and our pedometer challenge
- Ramblers can improve that areas around their homes and work so they commute more on foot
- Ramblers help groups to set up, which encourages people with health problems to get fitter, those who have been out of work gain skills and confidence through our walk leader training.
Coming into the next arch the more people that are encouraged to walk, and do walk makes it more socially acceptable this encourages others to walk which then influences the final arch. The final arch is what an individual chooses to do, their individual’s lifestyle factors. They choose to change these factors which include the amount of exercise they do, what food they eat etc. and it is that choice that we want to influence. By working through the outer arches and making walking easy and acceptable this will hopefully encourage them to decide to walk as part of their daily activities.
- Hanson S, Jones A. Br J Sports Med Published Online First: [11/02/2015] doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014- 094157 (Downloaded from http://bjsm.bmj.com/ on February 11, 2015 – Published by group.bmj.com)
- Office of National Statistics. (2014). Deaths Registered in England and Wales, 2013. Available: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/death-reg-sum-tables/2013/sb-deaths-firstrelease–2013.html. Last accessed 09 January 2015
- The Economic Impact of Walking and Hill Walking in Wales. Welsh Economy Research Unit, Cardiff University. 2011