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“You don't have to …”: walking to a healthier nation
  1. Andrew Tannahill
  1. Chief Executive, Health Education Board for Scotland Woodburn House, Canaan Lane Edinburgh EH10 4SG, Scotland

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    One of the best pieces of public health news in recent years has been that you do not have to be a marathon runner, sports champion, or even regular jogger to derive substantial health benefits through exercise: regular moderate physical activity has cardioprotective and other health benefits.1 From this and our low levels of exercise as a population, it can reasonably be concluded that promoting regular moderate physical activity—active living—is not only the most feasible route for exercise promotion but also the one that will yield the largest population health gain.2

    HEBS (the Health Education Board for Scotland) has been something of a pioneer of the active living approach in the United Kingdom.2–4 We place a strong emphasis on walking because of its accessibility. Walking is easy for most people to contemplate and do, regardless of age or fitness level. It does not require special skills, expensive equipment, or facilities. It can be built into everyday life—for example, in commuting, shopping, and leisure. And the risk of injury is generally low.5 HEBS commissioned qualitative research conducted in 1995 supported this notion of accessibility, with preference being shown for walking over swimming …

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