Evaluation of the national Walking for Health programme

Published: 18th July 2016

In 2013, Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support commissioned an external evaluation of  Walking for Health to provide a robust and independent assessment of whether the programme helps to achieve the physical activity and wellbeing outcomes we expect. We also wanted it to provide us with learning about what we, as a national programme team, need to do to increase our reach to target groups, better support the local schemes and volunteers, and raise awareness of the programme among key stakeholders.

We are delighted to publish this report and share what we have learnt.

How was it conducted?

The evaluation was commissioned externally from Ecorys in partnership with the University of East Anglia and included a longitudinal survey of Walking for Health participants (telephone questionnaire and pedometers); in-depth interviews and fieldwork at nine Walking for Health schemes across England; and interviews with external stakeholders.

What did we find out?

  • The programme is doing well at engaging with women; older people; inactive or insufficiently active people; and people with long term health conditions and disabilities. However, overall participants tend to be healthier, and no less active, than people of comparable age within the general population. It is also underrepresenting people who live in areas of deprivation and people from black and minority ethnic groups. To successfully engage with these underrepresented groups and support them to stay walking, Walking for Health schemes need more support and resources to increase their volunteer capacity and establish local partnerships with community groups and health and social care professionals.
  • A significant short-term overall increase in levels of weekly physical activity among participants after first joining the programme is demonstrated; but this increase is generally not sustained and participants returned to baseline levels. The fact that the programme encourages participants to maintain their activity levels is positive as the participants tend to be older, which is a time when many people decrease the amount of activity they do.
  • There was an improvement observed in a number of measures of wellbeing, including general mental health, loneliness, and social interaction. The social aspects of Walking for Health represent an important benefit for many participants, for example the opportunity for increased social interaction.
  • An economic assessment using the MOVES model indicates that Walking for Health has the potential to be highly cost-effective, at £3,775 per Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY) gained.

Find out more

>> Read the executive summary

You can also read the executive summary here

>> Read the final report

We’ll be working to embed the learning from this evaluation into our future activities, in particular our efforts to engage with key target audiences and support them to stay active with the programme.

>> Read the learning summary

We’ve summarised the key learning for us, that we want to share with schemes and apply to our work. You can read this here.

Contact us if you have any questions, comments or feedback.