Over half of people in Wales walk to improve their mental health, survey shows

A new survey commissioned by Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, has found that over half of the population (53%) who walk say they do so to improve their mental health and happiness. Other reasons included “to get fresh air” (53%), “it gets me moving more” (48%) and to “connect with nature” (26%).

A daily walk can reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and cancer, as well as improving fitness in the long run1. It’s also one of the easiest ways to socialise and stay connected to our community, helping us feel less lonely and isolated.

That’s why this May, Living Streets is encouraging people to #Try20 and walk for 20 minutes each day as part of National Walking Month.

While walking is a proven way to improve mental and physical wellbeing, it’s clear that many people aren’t doing it often enough. As part of a YouGov survey conducted by Living Streets, over a quarter (27%) of respondents in Wales say they spend less than 20 minutes walking in an average day, in comparison to a fifth (21%) of people in England.

The news comes despite the fact 44% of Welsh people say they feel “anxious, irritable, or lonely” after spending an entire day at home. 41% of survey respondents also said they feel “less fit” after just one day without leaving the house.

Dame Jane Roberts, a doctor, child psychiatrist and Chair of Living Streets, said:

“With the UK in the grip of a mental health crisis, it’s encouraging to hear that so many of us walk to feel happier. Research shows people who are active through walking report higher levels of mental wellbeing and feel happier and less anxious – that’s the magic of walking.

“As well as the physical benefits, walking can really help us switch off from the pressures of modern life. It’s a great way to spend time with friends and family – and to meet new people – helping reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

“Even a short, brisk walk can have wonderful mental and physical health benefits that we shouldn’t take for granted – and just 20 minutes a day can have a really positive impact.”

70-year-old Rob Whitchurch, from Cardiff was one of millions of people struggling with health issues and feeling isolated. After attending weekly walks organised by Living Streets to introduce people to others living in their area and the benefits of regular movement, Rob’s health has improved and he’s feeling more positive.

“I reckon I’m getting better because of the walking. It’s getting me fitter. I’m enjoying the company on the walks, which is good for me because it takes me out of my shell. I look forward to the walks – I’d do a walk a day if I could,” he said.

Living Streets is urging people in Wales to invite others to join them for a walk while they complete the #Try20 challenge for National Walking Month 2024 and discover the magic of walking.

To find out more, visit livingstreets.org.uk/nwm or search social media with the hashtags #Try20 and #MagicOfWalking


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