We led a programme of research with the University of East Anglia (UEA), to study the national Walking for Health programme impact.
We used a longitudinal telephone survey conducted with new walkers upon joining the programme, with follow-up research after four and eight months. We also carried out in-depth case study research of local Walking for Health schemes and interviewed national public health bodies, charities working in the health field and local authorities. Finally, we carried out a cost-benefit analysis using a model developed by UEA, to help estimate the potential return on investment from Walking for Health schemes.
Our survey research showed that the programme contributes to a significant short-term overall increase in levels of weekly physical activity among participants; however, this increase is generally not sustained and participants return to the baseline levels observed during the week that they joined the scheme. This finding is positive because many participants, who tend to be over 55, would have decreased the amount of physical activity they do in the absence of the programme. The surveys also observed a number of health and social benefits amongst Walking for Health participants, particularly relating to general mental wellbeing measures, loneliness, and social interaction.
Findings on the delivery of local schemes also provided the national programme team with useful learning on what they can do to increase the programme’s reach to particular target groups, to provide more effective support to local schemes and volunteers, and to develop awareness of the programme among key national stakeholders.
For more information, please contact James.Sennett@ecorys.com