A far-reaching new strategy highlights the health benefits of walking.
In this week’s viewpoint, ALLIANCE members Pain Concern, who provide information and support for those who live with chronic pain, review the report and discuss their new walking program for people living with chronic pain, STEPS.
In 2003, Scotland became one of the first countries to introduce a national activity strategy, ‘Let’s Make Scotland More Active’ (LMSMA). Since LMSMA was published the Toronto Charter for Physical Activity has taken its recommendations further. The new national walking strategy, ‘Lets Get Scotland Walking’ (LGSW) goes further still. LGSW aims to get more and more of us walking and it highlights both the mental and physical benefits walking can instil in all of us, despite our age, culture, social class, religion, or our chronic health concerns.
The health risks of inactivity can be stark. Inactivity cost lives. Up to seven lives are lost in Scotland every day, amounting to 2,500 premature deaths every year and a cost £91 million to NHS Scotland. It is known that walking half hour daily provides many health benefits, and as little as 10 minutes a day can make a difference to heart health and longevity. Recent evidence also suggests that 18% of the population may be affected by moderate to severe pain at some point in their lives. Chronic pain is a long term condition in its own right, as well as being associated with many other long term conditions. Many people living with chronic pain find that walking is an ideal activity to help them self manage their pain.
LGSW outlines a national goal to get more people active through walking, by creating more ‘friendly’ walking environments ‘to ensure easy, convenient and independent mobility for all’. While walking is three times more popular than any other recreational activity among Scottish adults, this report acknowledges that even the simplest, most accessible and most popular form of activity hasn’t stopped the costs of inactivity to the UK economy reaching approximately £20 billion annually. Why?
Among the Report’s many conclusions it cites environmental factors as a major deterrent to people walking in Scotland; also the fact that many places fail the needs of those with limited abilities and adaptive needs. This strategy aims to instil a waking culture and environments where it is conducive to make individuals – regardless of ability or adaptive needs based on their health – have the confidence to ‘walk’ before they feel they would need to turn to a car or bus. It makes no promises about the rain.
The report states that making the nation more walker-friendly both for the ‘able’ and those with ‘healthcare need’ will also enhance town centres and retail areas and encourage more tourism. It highlights that an improved walking environment can assist in proving access to jobs, local facilities and to public transport for longer trips. The Report concludes that increased levels of walking make the Scottish nation ‘wealthier and fairer’.
In the ALLIANCE’s view, the strategy has the potential to support individuals and communities to become more active through walking. Walking has a huge positive influence on people’s lives and supports better health and wellbeing for people who live with long term conditions and many others. Despite this, the ALLIANCE has expressed some disappointment in its recent response to the Scottish Government that there has not been more recognition of this throughout the strategy.
As an ALLIANCE member and organisation dedicated to the support of those living with a chronic condition, Pain Concern has already embraced the strategy through the creation of a walking group designed to help Glasgow Pain Management Program (PMP) graduates, and indeed all those living with chronic pain, walk as part of their self-management plan.
The Glasgow PMP is a service which provides rehabilitation support from physiotherapists to those living with chronic pain. Glasgow PMP approached the Walking Towards Better Health project to support them in developing an appropriate activity for them to signpost people on to, as many people living with chronic pain had found generic health walks were at too high a level for them and it was suggested that they could work in partnership with Pain Concern.
In response, Pain Concern have now developed a programme where people referred by Glasgow PMP can take part in graded walks and use pedometers to monitor differences in ability over 12 weeks and will be running weekly graded walks at 4 levels to allow people to take part in an activity which best suits their level of ability with the hope that some would be able to graduate on to Walk Glasgow activities.
We are developing a STEPS chronic pain walker’s group who will meet weekly for twelve weeks to set out on 10, 20 or 30 minute walks in Glasgow Green. For more information call Pain Concern on 0131 669 5951 or email firstname.lastname@example.org