Editor's Viewpoint: More effort required to get us on the move
According to a new survey, Northern Ireland people hate to walk. One-third of those surveyed said they walked to any extent once a week. Presumably the rest are couch potatoes or took the car whenever they wanted to go anywhere.
Quizzed on what would persuade them to get out more and walk further, the overwhelmingly most popular answer was 'better weather', followed by the claim that respondents would walk more in summer.
Certainly it is easier to go for a walk on a balmy evening than when the rain is falling sideways due to a gale-force wind, but nevertheless these responses seem more like excuses than compelling reasons never to go for a walk.
Even in Northern Ireland it doesn't rain all the time, and in February this year we had temperatures more associated with late spring than midwinter.
Walking is good for us, unless we have some underlying condition which prevents us taking a stroll. Unlike the gym it is always free, and the health benefits are well signposted.
Obesity has become a national health crisis, being a contributory factor in diseases like diabetes, cancer and cardiac problems. Walking requires no special equipment beyond a comfortable pair of shoes or trainers and appropriate clothing for the weather. A constant mantra from health professionals to those wanting to lose weight is eat less and move more. It is a simple message and the 'move more' part could not be easier to do.
However, we have to take account of dangers to pedestrians on our roads, with almost 900 being killed or seriously injured in a five-year period.
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The dangers are most apparent in rural areas where there are few footpaths, little street lighting, and much faster traffic speeds.
The survey found that most people wanted more footpaths, better lighting and more consideration from motorists. In the same five-year period, 255 people were killed or seriously injured at pedestrian crossings. That shows a shocking disregard for the rules of the road, mostly by motorists but also by pedestrians who attempt to cross without taking due care.
The responses to this survey should inform the Department for Infrastructure on changes to road layouts and speed limits which would encourage more people to walk more, and also the Department of Health on better educational policies regarding the health benefits of walking.