Walking Matters engages with communities

Public Health

'Climate change is the greatest public health disaster facing us today and one that requires action at local, national and international level - Only by firm and decisive action now - can we, as a global community, hope to avert or mitigate an impending public health catastrophe of immense proportions.'
Presidents of the Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the British Medical Journal

There is a need for greater understanding of the links between health, land-use planning and design, and the environment. 

The Institute of Public Health in Ireland recently hosted a great seminar on Enhancing Opportunities for Physical Activity in the Built Environment at which Prof. James Sallis, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and Director of Active Living Research shared his experience of working to implement policy and practice change in the USA on improving levels of physical activity. Prof Sallis has developed an extensive programme of work looking at the policy and environmental influences on physical activity, nutrition and obesity. As Director of Active Living Research his work contributes to the prevention of childhood obesity in low income and high-risk communities.

Our built environment affects many aspects of everyday life - it impacts our opportunities for physical activity, the availability of healthy foods, our level of exposure to toxins, even our risk of injury.

The quality and ease of access of our parks, streets and public spaces can be a major determinant in whether, and how much, we walk. 

The Institute of Public Health in Ireland recommend the book "The Health Practitioner's Guide to Climate Change" - www.earthscan.co.uk as preparatory reading on this subject.  They are organising a meeting on Climate Change & Health on 30 Sept 2010.  See the link on Events for more information.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that women who get moderate amounts of exercise in middle-age tend to be much healthier at 70 and beyond. Active women cross-over into the senior decades with far fewer chronic diseases and greater mental acuity.

Picking up the pace to a brisk clip could be enough to help ward off disease as we age.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health evaluated the health of more than 13,000 women who had reached the age of 70. They found that women who regularly walked at a moderate pace had much higher odds of staving off disease and aging successfully than their counterparts who didn't exert themselves beyond leisurely, easy walking.  And there's evidence that picking up the pace — beyond just moderate intensity — may be very beneficial. The women who walked at a very brisk clip increased their odds of successful aging by 3-fold.

The benefits of exercise held up for women across weight-ranges, from thin to heavy.

And prior research shows that gentle cycling with quick bursts of intensity is also beneficial. Research on interval training shows that bringing the heart-rate up for short periods of time during a 20-minutes ride can be an efficient way to increase fitness quickly.

Measuring the quality of public space before investing time and money in improving it is key to what WalkingMatters does.  Spaceshaper is a practical toolkit to engage with communities in discussions about design quality and how spaces work.  The workshop raises aspirations and encourages people to demand more of their local space - which in turn means that public space reflects the needs of the community, who take pride and a sense of 'ownership' in their public areas.

See Services for details about our work.