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By Beth Sutcliffe | 04 October 2022 | TAGS: Walking, Beth Sutcliffe

Between February 2019 and today (October 2022), there has been a significant shift in the narrative around the importance of walking to population scale change in physical activity.

Greater Manchester has moved from a place where formal walking groups were the mainstay of conversations about the role of walking, to a position where there is widespread understanding of the critical role of walking; for leisure, for travel, and for everyday activity that is so significant to population health.

As well as Active Lives data demonstrating how pre Covid, more people were already walking for both leisure and travel in GM. We have seen a shift in the perception of how important walking is for example the Active Soles movement is helping this, particularly in the active workplace agenda.

The latest Active Lives data, (May 2020-21) shows that the amount of walking for leisure that people do is at an all time high (more people have been walking for leisure year on year) but walking for travel has seen decline in participation in the past 12 months (walking for travel peaked in 18-19 and has declined since the pandemic).  

GM is now 3.5 years into the delivery phase of the longer term Walking Ambition.

A social movement takes time to grow and embed (the programme was only one year into implementation when the pandemic started).

External evaluators are observing success through the development of apps and social media, through walking Champions, The Greater Manchester Way Campaign and The GM Daily Mile Toolkits, there are festivals and events, websites, animations and there have been Community Investment Fund grants for over 80 VCSE organisations.

These tangible assets and investments have been critical tools to support and enable the movement to grow, and are growing capacity and capability from neighbourhoods, through localities and GM wide leadership on this agenda.

We have strengthened relationships with key partners such as TfGM and recognise how active travel has a key role to play in increasing physical activity overall, especially amongst more inactive and disadvantaged population groups (e.g. Sport England Active Lives data for walking shows that disadvantaged population groups are more reliant upon forms of active travel to achieve recommended levels of activity).

Through the development of the theories of change (‘Enablers for Change’) we are understanding what it takes to make change happen and to enable active lives (learn more here).This has influenced and shaped our current focus and priorities to support increased walking in Greater Manchester.

We remain collectively committed to continue to work on specific priorities for walking and 'continue to grow and embed the GM Walking Ambition across the whole system and in each locality' in order to to tackle inequalities and support Covid-19 recovery and resilience

A series of deliverables include:

  • Strengthen and diversify ‘The GM Walking Voice’ network
  • Embedding and widening the GM Walking campaign and walking stories.
  • Work with TfGM to support the delivery of Streets for All, developing a delivery plan for the ‘International Walking Charter’
  • Closer involvement with TfGM ‘Bee A Champion’ workforce development programme
  • Share and widen the reach of approaches to support everyday walking in localities and social prescribing networks.
  • Share tools to support walking champions including in the health setting (for example a Daily Mile route in Manchester Children's Hospital and ‘Walk and Talk’ training for counselling practitioners in care settings).
  • Build on the success and learning from the walking grants we will facilitate another phase of the GM Walking Grants.

The latest evaluation report can be downloaded below.


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