This research summary draws on the latest data on the benefits of walking for physical health, and mental and social wellbeing; as well as for the economy and environment. This summary is intended for people working in local government and community health organisations to support policy and planning. This may include preparing submissions to increase investment in walking, active travel and/or developing walkable neighbourhoods.
Australians are increasingly falling short of meeting physical activity guidelines. Just over half the adult population is considered insufficiently active for good health. Alarmingly, this problem extends to our children and young people. Only 30 per cent of 2 to ─17 year-olds meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) physical activity recommendation for health of at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths. In economic terms, physical inactivity costs the Australian economy $13.8 billion, including healthcare, productivity and mortality costs.
The burden of physical inactivity is 1.7 times higher for people from low socioeconomic groups than those in the highest socioeconomic group.
Our lack of physical activity is associated with an increase in the number of Australians who are overweight. Currently, almost 2 in 3 Australians are either overweight or obese, and those levels are expected to rise.
Obesity and weight problems are estimated to cost the Australian economy $56.6 billion annually.
WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity a week for adults. Walking for 30 minutes each day is a good way to meet these guidelines. An active lifestyle is critical to reducing the global burden of inactivity, obesity and chronic disease.