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Case studies

Walking helped me cope with the loss of a loved one

“It has given me a new life and I’ve made a lot of friends.” Roy, Bristol

Roy, 74, lives in Westbury near Bristol. Roy had always been active and involved in his local community but it was only eight years ago that he began walking in earnest – and before long he was planning and leading walks for two over-sixties groups. (They are easy walks and the motto is, ‘Styles are not our style’). In 2009 Roy’s wife died very suddenly of cancer. She died on a Sunday and his son persuaded him to walk, as usual, on the Wednesday. “The friendship and love I got from those people really helped me,” said Roy. “It has given me a new life and I’ve made a lot of friends.” Now, Roy helps other older people who want to get out more but have lost confidence. Many tell him they feel scared on their own, but safe in a group. Roy runs his two groups with military precision, planning bus routes to the start of the walks, printing flyers and even organising additional coach trips for his members. In 2011 he won an exceptional service award from Natural England for his outstanding contribution to walking.

Walking helps alleviate my depression and anxiety

“I know for a fact that it lifts your spirits." Karen, Chertsey

Karen, 49, from Chertsey, has suffered from depression. She took anti-depressants for three years but then stopped taking them and started walking. The more she got outside and walked, the better she felt. “I know for a fact that it lifts your spirits,” she said. Walking also eases the anxiety that Karen sometimes feels, especially if she is walking with a friend who she can talk to. Karen loves gardening and has always loved the outdoors. She loves connecting with nature and watching how the seasons change the landscape as she walks her favourite route around Virginia Water Lake. Walking gives her a mix of exercise, fresh air, company and daylight that helps keep her in a positive frame of mind. Karen walks three to four times a week, for an hour and a half, and often meets friends for an early morning stroll. She has recently joined a walking group that meets on Tuesday lunchtimes in various locations around Chertsey.

Walking has helped me recover from a terrible accident

"Walking is a fun and motivational form of exercise.” Katrina, Bristol

Katrina was in her mid-thirties, fighting fit and enjoying a successful career as a sales consultant in Bristol when, in October 2009, a car crashed into her bicycle and sent her flying. Her injuries were so bad that she had to learn to walk again. Her first morphine-dazed memory of learning to walk was of a male nurse kicking her feet forward one by one, as female nurses held her upright. Despite her hardships – she is still recovering from her accident and has a brain injury - Katrina is back at work part-time and still loves to exercise. Each Wednesday she joins a Walk for Health group in Bristol and fortnightly she joins another group, the Horfield and Lockleaze Strollers. At weekends she goes on recreational walks with a hiking group – and is even a walk leader. “Walking is great for the mind,” she said. “You are free to wander whilst you get fresh air to clear your head. I like to chat to others whilst walking, which is great company for me. Walking is a fun and motivational form of exercise.”

Walking helps me control my Type 2 Diabetes

“I used to walk a little, but now it's a focus of my life." Stephen, Tyne and Wear

Stephen, 55, from Tyne and Wear, suffers from Type 2 Diabetes, which he has to control through diet and medication. Until 2011 his attitude to exercise was that he’d do as little as he could. He’d give the dog a quick walk around the block and that would be it. Last year he took part in the Living Streets Walk to Work campaign and clocked up 80 miles of walking during one week alone. It changed his whole life. Stephen now walks twice a day during the week and three times at weekends. Through a combination of a change in his diabetes medication and his walking, he has lost four and a half stone over an eight month period. Stephen has two lively young children and he walks them, he says, “Until they are tired.” “I used to walk a little,” said Stephen, “but now it is a focus of my life. I feel good and it is a cheap way to exercise. It costs nothing to walk.”

Walking has eased my arthritis

“Anywhere we want to go, I walk." Rekha, Lambeth

Rekha, 53, was suffering from arthritis in her knees and an underactive thyroid. Last spring she had started a regime of jogging three times a week but when she heard about the Living Streets week-long Walk to Work challenge, she decided to try walking instead. During the challenge week, she walked ten miles each day – that’s three hours of walking at Rekha’s pace.  She found that if she left home at 6am, she could be in work at Lambeth Town Hall at the usual time.  If she had taken the bus, she’d have left home at 6.30am anyway.  These days she still walks part of the route to work, getting off the bus about a mile from her office, and deliberately walks to the homes of friends or to local amenities. “Anywhere we want to go, I walk,” she said.  A combination of diet and walking (with a little running, too), has led to a real improvement in her arthritis and she has lost over twenty pounds in weight.

I’m going to walk 900 miles this year

“I feel better, I sleep better, I eat better. I win all round." Jez, Lincoln

Jez, 60, lives just outside Lincoln.  From April to November last year he walked 800 miles, both walking to and from work and walking recreationally (he loves to visit the Lake District). It was only the dark nights and inclement weather that stopped him clocking up more miles.  But this year he’s upping the stakes and has set a personal target of 900 miles. Jez has always been fit and active but since  beginning his walking says he has lost 25lbs.  “I feel better, I sleep better, I eat better. I win all round,” he said. There are other benefits, too. Parking in Lincoln would have cost Jez £650 last year. That’s money better spent elsewhere, he feels. And as a software developer, Jez finds his time walking to and from the office (it’s a 4.7 mile journey each way) is time when he can let his creative juices flow. Often, by the time he arrives at work, he’s had a chance to solve a problem that’s been on his mind.

Walking helped me conquer obesity

“I have lost all the aches and pains I endured ‘at my age’ and my energy levels have increased." Joyce, Derbyshire

At the age of 63, Joyce was buying size 24 clothes. Life had been tough: she’d been a carer for elderly relatives for a number of years and was left feeling low and very unfit. In September 2007 she took the decision to get fit and, with the encouragement of friends, began taking short walks. Soon she felt she could walk further and she joined the Long Eaton Walking for Health Group, which met outside an Asda every Monday at 10am. The walks were two to three miles long and she found them tough but she persevered and soon became a walk leader. Encouraged, Joyce joined a gym and focussed more on what she was eating and even enrolled in a free WaistWise scheme run by Derbyshire Health Promotion Service.   After experimenting with various diet and exercise combinations, Joyce settled on a high protein/low carbohydrate way of eating and this, combined with her walking and other exercise routines, has done the trick. She now weighs 11 stone 8lbs and can wear a size 16 clothes. Her BMI has reduced from 35 to 27.6. Joyce now walks 12 miles per week. “I have lost all the aches and pains I endured ‘at my age’ and my energy levels have increased. “I feel better, I sleep better, I eat better. I win all round,  My bone density and skin have improved and I am stronger than I have ever been,” said Joyce.

For further information, please contact the Living Streets press office on, 020 7377 4914 or 07545 209865.

Top walking tips

  1. Look for opportunities to walk. Park a little further away from your destination or get off public transport a stop early.
  2. Become a tourist in your own town. Look around you and enjoy the scenery whether it’s in the heart of the city or the countryside.
  3. Make your walks easy and comfortable: ensure you are appropriately dressed with suitable footwear.
  4. Avoid stresses and strains. Take light easy steps and make sure your heel touches the ground before your toes do, to absorb the impact.
  5. Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water or juice before and after your walk.  If you’re taking a long walk, take a water bottle with you.
  6. If you’re walking to lose weight, set off at a gentle pace and gradually pick up speed as you warm up. You’ll need to walk for over 30 minutes a day before you start seeing results.
  7. Buy a pedometer to measure the number of steps you take. It’s a useful motivator and an easy way to keep your walking on track.
  8. Relax and unwind. Walking isn’t just good for your body, it’s good for your soul and is recognised as an effective way to unwind and de-stress.
  9. Use your walks to spend quality time with friends, family or colleagues away from your email, phone or laptop. It’s a great way to meet your neighbours too.
  10. Count the cost. Tot up how much you’ve saved in a week by not forking out for petrol, bus or train ticket.

Walking for your health

  • Forget Botox: walking can help you keep young. Research shows that regular exercise such as taking the stairs rather than the lift can turn back the clock by three years. (Laurie Barclay, June 9, 2008 BMI)
  • Regular walking can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis 
  • Walking has mental health benefits and can help you deal with anxiety and stress; it may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • The Chief Medical Officer recommends that for general health adults should walk for at least 30 minutes a day, for five or more days of the week
  • Only 37% of men and 24% of women are sufficiently active to gain any health benefits (Health Survey for Session 2003-4, Department of Health)
  • More than two million deaths a year worldwide are attributed to physical inactivity (Move for Health, WHO).

Top 10 walking songs

  1. Walk on the wild side ~ Lou Reed
  2. Walking on Sunshine ~ Katrina & the Waves
  3. Walk like an Egyptian ~ The Bangles
  4. Walking through barbed wire ~ Papa Roach
  5. Walk between the raindrops ~ Donald Fagen
  6. Walking on the moon ~ the Police
  7. Walk on by ~ Dionne Warwick
  8. Walk this way ~ Aerosmith
  9. Walking in Memphis ~ Marc Cohn
  10. Walking Man ~ James Taylor
  11. Walk on ~ U2
  12. I walk the line ~ Johnny Cash
  13. Walk of Life ~ Dire Straits
  14. Walk away – Franz Ferdinand
  15. Walk like a man ~ Frankie Vallie
  16. You’ll never walk alone ~ Gerry & the Pacemakers
  17. These boots are made for walking ~ Nancy Sinatra
  18. Easier to walk away ~ Elton John
  19. Walk the Dinosaur ~ Was Not Was
  20. Walking back to happiness ~ Helen Shapiro