Department of Health and Social Care
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Macmillan and the Ramblers join forces to get people walking

More people will be encouraged to get on their feet and get walking thanks to a new partnership between leading charities, Public Health Minister Anne Milton announced recently.

Macmillan Cancer Support and the Ramblers have taken over the reins of the national Walking for Health scheme from Natural England, that has already seen 75,000 people across England walk the equivalent of 400 times around the world. 

Being active offers huge benefits but less than 40 per cent of people do enough. And the older people get the less they do – in England, less than 20 per cent of over 65s meet recommended levels of two and a half hours a week.  Not being active costs the NHS across the UK £1.06 billion a year and £5.5 billion in lost productivity from sickness absence.

Walking for Health was originally the brainchild of Dr William Bird MBE, an Oxfordshire GP who recognised the value of walking in a natural environment for the health of his patients.  There are now about 650 local schemes across the country.

Speaking at a ministerial handover this morning, Public Health Minister Anne Milton and Environment Minister Richard Benyon celebrated Macmillan’s and the Ramblers’ plans.  Together they will increase the number of local walks and the numbers of walkers, with a particular focus on the least active and people living with and beyond cancer.

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:

“Being active helps us stay healthy, by protecting against heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Walking is one of the easiest ways to build physical activity into our lives. 

“This partnership between the Ramblers and Macmillan will see even more people realise the health benefits of walking – building on the great work that has seen Walking for Health participants walking the equivalent of 400 times around the world since 2000.”

A new Responsibility Deal pledge, an initiative that sees business, charities and Government working in partnership to make the nation healthier, was also unveiled. Macmillan Cancer Support and the Ramblers have pledged to significantly increase the numbers of people who are active through the scheme. They will work with Local Authorities, the NHS and others to increase the number of local walks and the numbers of walkers. Walks are usually short, on easy terrain and are free and open to everyone, and can be found on the Walking for Health website.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:

“Walking for Health gets people out and about enjoying the natural environment, while helping them improve their health and wellbeing.  We hope that the project will give even more people the chance to get involved and enjoy the benefits of walking.”

Natural England’s Chair Poul Christensen said:

“Walking for Health now has over 75,000 regular walkers who enjoy the health and social benefits that regular walking brings. The successful partnership between Natural England and the local walking groups has been at the heart of this programme and we are proud of what we have achieved together over the past 12 years.  We know this success will continue under the new ownership of Macmillan Cancer Support and the Ramblers.

Ramblers Chief Executive Benedict Southworth said: 

“We are delighted to be taking on Walking for Health and look forward to this exciting new opportunity to bring the benefits of walking to even more people.  Walking is the easiest and most accessible form of physical activity and can make a real difference to people’s health and well being, particularly at a time when so many of us are much less active than we should be. We are particularly pleased to be working with another great charity, Macmillan Cancer Support.”

Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support Ciarán Devane said:

“Macmillan is excited to be working in partnership with the Ramblers to ensure that Walking for Health continues to grow. Together we can increase opportunities for people to become more active, whether it is because they have cancer, some other condition, or just want to be healthy.

“For people living with cancer, being active can help manage some of the debilitating consequences of treatment.  Exercise can even help reduce the chance of some cancers coming back.”

Chair of the Responsibility Deal Physical Activity network Fred Turok said:

“I very much welcome this excellent pledge from Macmillan Cancer Support and The Ramblers to get more people up and out and walking as part of the Responsibility Deal.

“It will see the successful Walking for Health programme transfer to the voluntary sector with ambitious expansion plans – giving greater opportunities for more people to be active through walking.

“These charities will bring their expertise and experience working with communities to deliver this commitment and with a particular focus on the least active and those people living with and beyond cancer. The potential health and wellbeing benefits are huge.”

Though Macmillan and the Ramblers will be working together to improve opportunities for people affected by cancer to participate in health walks, Walking for Health will remain open to everyone.

Notes to editors

  1. For media enquiries only, please call the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5222. Non media callers should contact the customer service centre on 020 7210 4850.
  2. Macmillan Cancer Support began funding the running of Walking for Health’s national centre for three years on 1 April.
  3. The Walking for Health national centre was previously hosted by Natural England.  It was initially funded by Big Lottery Fund and the British Heart Foundation, with funding in the last three years provided by the Department of Health. From 1 April the national centre has transferred to the Ramblers in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support.
  4. The Macmillan Cancer Support/Ramblers Responsibility Deal pledge:

From April 2012, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Ramblers will take over responsibility for the Walking for Health programme and will work together to significantly increase the numbers of people who are active through walking by supporting and managing a sustainable national centre for the programme. We will work with Local Authorities, the NHS and others to grow the number of local schemes and walks and increase the numbers of walkers, with a particular focus on the least active and people living with and beyond cancer.

5. The Public Health Responsibility Deal aims to tap into the potential for businesses and other influential organisations to make a significant contribution to improving public health by helping us to create this environment. It embodies the Government’s ambition for a more collaborative approach to tackling the challenges caused by our lifestyle choices.

6. Organisations signing up to the Responsibility Deal commit to taking action voluntarily to improve public health through their responsibilities as employers, as well as through their commercial actions and their activities within local communities. For more information please visit the Responsibility Deal website. 

7. The Ramblers was chosen to host the national centre of Walking for Health following a thorough and open selection process run by Natural England and the Department of Health, including a competitive tender. NaturalEnglandand the Department of Health concluded that the Ramblers was the organisation most likely to use the assets of the national centre effectively and build on the project’s success.

8. Macmillan Cancer Support will work with the Ramblers to increase ways for people living with or after cancer to become more physically active through local health walks as well as keeping the programme open to all.

  1. About Macmillan Cancer Support:
    Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support.  Working alongside people affected by cancer, Macmillan works to improve cancer care. More than one in three of us will get cancer. Two million of us are living with it. If you are affected by cancer Macmillan can help.

For more information about Macmillan Cancer Support, visit the Macmillan website or freephone 0800 500 800 for an information pack. 

10. About The Ramblers:

The Ramblers is at the heart of walking inBritain; working to promote walking and protect the places where people walk. It works to make it easy for everyone to walk, whether in countryside, cities, hills, coasts and on or off the beaten track.  With a grassroots network of over 17,000 volunteers, it runs more than 38,000 led walks a year, protectsBritain’s 130,000 mile long path network and campaigns for better walking routes and more walking opportunities.