Scottish Government
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A short walk to health

New methods of getting Scots active to beat obesity and ill health are to be developed.

Physical inactivity contributes to nearly 2,500 deaths, costs the NHS £91 million each year in Scotland and is the fourth leading health risk factor behind hypertension (high blood pressure), tobacco and high blood sugar (diabetes). 

The Scottish Government will produce a National Walking Strategy to maximise the number of people using walking as a mode of transport, to get active and to stay active.

And new, integrated programmes that support patients into a more active lifestyle - brief advice from healthcare professionals followed by local activity programmes in community sport hubs or leisure centres - are to be tested. The programmes, to be delivered in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and NHS Health Scotland, build on the evidence base for promoting physical activity through primary care. The Scottish Government will contribute support of £100,000 and test sites will be up and running early next year.

Speaking during a debate in Parliament on physical activity and obesity, Sport Minister Shona Robison said:

“Obesity levels in Scotland are the third worst amongst OECD countries behind the USA and Mexico, so we need a transformation to shift our culture to make physical activity a routine, normal part of everyday lives.

“We know that 30 minutes of walking each day provides more protection against death than any medication. While there are small increases in the number of adults and children being active, we want the majority of Scots to be in a normal weight range by 2030. This will clearly not be achieved overnight.

“There is overwhelming evidence in relation to the health benefits that come from walking so that is why the Scottish Government will develop a National Walking Strategy. This will address infrastructure, support and communication to make sure we do everything possible to help the use walking as a mode of transport or to get active. I want Scotland to become internationally recognised as an active society and this project is another step in that direction.”

Dr Andrew Murray, a GP and the Scottish Government’s physical activity champion said: “Regular activity is man’s best medicine.  Walking is a great treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, osteoporosis and many other conditions. Physical activity can also help fight obesity, the onset of obesity, and the myriad complications of obesity. People underestimate the good they can do themselves with even low levels of physical activity - walking to local shops or taking the stairs. These simple activities not only make people feel better quickly, they also add years of quality life.”

Dave Morris, Director of Ramblers Scotland: “This is excellent news - a Scottish walking strategy will be really useful in tackling obesity problems and encouraging many more people to become physically active. Walking is one of the easiest ways for everyone to get fit and stay healthy. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government in the development of the strategy and its promotion amongst all interest groups. This should be one of the best measures taken to help Scotland deliver a physical activity legacy from the 2012 Olympic and 2014 Commonwealth Games.”

Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Chair John Gillies said:  "RCGP Scotland recognise the importance of tackling obesity, and physical inactivity, both of which are major Public Health Challenges we need to address for people of all backgrounds and ages. The RCGP Physical Activity Reference Group has worked closely with Scottish Government and NHS Health Scotland and are developing tools to enable staff to assess and provide advice rapidly and effectively. NHS Health Scotland have shown Brief Intervention to be highly cost effective for Physical Inactivity and work is underway on a pilot/ feasibility study. "