Scottish Household Survey: A Single Step

This report, based on the Scottish Household Survey physical activity data, tells a story about how being more active changed a person's life.

Policy Context 

“Physical activity and sport are a powerful force in transforming lives. There is clear and growing evidence of the health, economic and social benefits physical activity and sport can bring. Physical activity and sport improve the health of the heart, skeletal muscles, bones and blood, the immune system and nervous system, and enable people to live longer, healthier lives. Being active improves psychological wellbeing, boosts self-esteem, plays an important role in maintaining a healthy weight and improves mood and sleep quality.”

The Scottish Government aims to make Scotland a walking friendly nation. It wants a Scotland where everyone benefits from walking as part of their everyday journeys, where everyone enjoys walking in the outdoors, and where places are well designed to encourage walking. And whilst it recognises that no single intervention will work for all – and that cross-sectoral action is needed at community, local, national and international level - it strongly believes that the simplest way for most of us to gain more physical activity is through walking more.

The National Walking Strategy sits within the context of the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework and our Physical Activity Delivery Plan. The National Walking Strategy outlines a vision, underpinned by three strategic aims for Scotland:

  • Creation of a culture of walking
  • Development of better walking environments
  • Supporting easy, convenient independent mobility for everyone

The Walking Strategy and Action Plan are part of successes across the sectors outlined in some examples below: 

  • ‘Communication and public education’ – has secured massive public engagement, and sharing of infographics across social and digital media.
  • ‘Transport and the environment/Urban design and infrastructure’ – A doubling of funding for active travel was announced in September 2017 by the First Minister of Scotland to prioritise walking and cycling, following discussions between Public Health and Transport colleagues.
  • ‘Health and social care’ – Our partners at Ramblers Scotland established walking routes from all hospitals across pilot Health Boards. Teaching on physical activity has been established in all Scotland’s medical schools.
  • ‘Education’ – The Daily Mile is an initiative where each child walks, runs or jogs a mile each day. This idea was born in Scotland by a former head teacher, Elaine Wyllie. Scotland can now boast over 1000 schools taking part, our first college and university now participating and are now seeing take up of the initiative in the public and private sector workforce.
  • Community wide approaches are being prioritised by the increased funding for active transport, while Paths for All and Ramblers Scotland offer community walks Scotland wide.

Although participation has risen overall since 2007, participation in physical activity and sport (including recreational walking) is lower for those living in deprived areas (69 per cent for those living in the most deprived areas compared to 90 per cent for those living in the least deprived). The gap in activity levels between the 20 per cent most and the 20 per cent least deprived areas has been consistent over time. The gap was 19 percentage points in 2007 (63 per cent and 82 per cent respectively) and 21 percentage points in 2018 (69 per cent and 90 per cent respectively).

Walking is the most prevalent activity across the range of educational attainment but there is still a 32 percentage point gap in participation between those with a degree or professional qualification (79 per cent) and those with no qualification (47 per cent).

In 2018 the vast majority of adults (80 per cent) had taken part in physical activity and sport in the previous four weeks


More Walking Stories

Recreational walking (for at least 30 minutes) has consistently been the most common type of physical activity. This has risen from 54 per cent in 2010 to 68 per cent in 2018.



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