Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson, launched the strategy as he was joined by school children and walkers at the Helix in Falkirk to take part in the Commonwealth Big Fit Walk.
A Working Group made up of members from various organisations across Scotland developed the Strategy’s vision to create a Scotland where everyone benefits from walking as part of their everyday journeys, enjoys walking in the outdoors and where places are well-designed to encourage walking.
Cabinet Secretary for Sport, Shona Robison, said: “There are so many benefits from encouraging people across Scotland to walk more: it can contribute positively to areas such as mental and physical health, climate change, community empowerment, economic development, and tourism.
“Walking is highly cost-effective and demonstrates that prevention really is better than cure. The health risks are stark – seven Scots die every day due to inactivity, often long before they have to. That is seven too many.
“This is the year to get Scots more active, and embrace the truly beautiful walking routes we have available to us.”
Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson, launching the strategy, said: “Getting people more healthy and active through walking is an important aim and is why initiatives like The Big Fit Walk are great for raising awareness and encouraging people to get out and about.
“People underestimate the good they can do themselves with even low levels of physical activity – walking to the local shops or taking the stairs. These simple activities not only make people feel better quickly, they also add years to quality of life.
“Scotland ranks amongst those OECD countries with the highest obesity levels, so we need a real shift in culture to make physical activity a routine, normal part of everyday lives. This will clearly not be achieved overnight, and I welcome all initiatives that encourage more people in Scotland to get active.”
Scotland has outstanding opportunities for walking in both urban and rural areas. With its spectacular scenery, range of green spaces (including parks), walkable urban centres and metropolitan cities, community routes, long-distance route networks and its world-class access rights, Scotland has a unique set of ‘walking-friendly’ factors to entice people to the great outdoors.
To maximise the health benefits members of the Working Group agreed that attractive, well-designed places with signed routes, close to where people live and work, must be managed and developed, so that Scots will be encouraged to use them on a regular basis for health, recreation, sport, and active travel.
Dr Andrew Murray, President of Ramblers Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government’s National Walking Strategy is a fantastic document which lays out a long-term plan to get Scots all across the country walking more, and take advantage of the many walking routes on offer.
“At the moment, physical inactivity is the second biggest cause of mortality in Scotland – joint with smoking – after high blood pressure. It has been estimated that getting Scots active would increase life expectancy by more than a year given our current inactivity levels.
“Walking, given its accessibility, has been highlighted as the most likely way all adults can achieve the recommended levels of physical activity and I would encourage everyone to get moving.”
Ian Findlay, chief officer of Scottish charity Paths for All, said: “We welcome the launch of the 2014 National Walking Strategy. As a charity that promotes everyday walking as the way to a healthier, happier Scotland, we are delighted to be tasked with leading the delivery forum in developing an action plan to deliver the strategy. We look forward to working together with our partners and other stakeholders to get Scotland walking.
“Walking is the most popular form of physical activity, regardless of age, income or gender, so this is an important step in looking after the health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland. Walking can also play a huge role in meeting the social, transport and environmental challenges that Scotland faces, so having this strategy linking these key policy areas is an excellent step forward.
“Paths for All will continue to help people access great places to walk by supporting the development of local paths and streets to make walking a natural choice for everyday journeys.”
Councillor Peter Johnston, COSLA’s Health and Well-being Spokesman said: “COSLA is delighted to be launching this new national strategy in partnership with the Scottish Government and a wide range of key stakeholders. Getting Scotland walking is possibly the single most effective thing we can do to improve our nation’s health and wellbeing.
“If we can do more to get our most inactive and disadvantaged communities walking, we’ll also be taking steps to tackle the stark and unacceptable inequalities in health that still exist in Scotland today.
“Councils, through their leadership of Community Planning Partnerships, are particularly well-placed to help get Scotland walking by improving the physical environment so that people have safe and attractive routes that they will want to use, and by helping to create a culture where walking is the first choice for shorter everyday journeys and for leisure and recreation.
“We also need to make sure that walking routes are accessible to people who use a wheelchair, or face other difficulties with mobility, and it’s vital that we promote the benefits of physical activity to as many groups as possible.”