Young people’s attitudes to walking are generally very positive, with particularly high levels of agreement that walking is healthy (98%), environmentally friendly (97%), and enables independent mobility (78%).
The survey found the most common destinations for young people’s utilitarian walking trips are to access public transport (81%), shops (71%), entertainment (53%) or to visit friends or relatives (48%).
Walking for transport plays a significant role in young people’s physical activity. For 18-24 year-olds, walking for transport alone (excluding walking for fitness) comprises about half of the total time spent on physical activity (ABS, 2013). Walking for transport is largely functional (ie to get to places) for young people, and not necessarily viewed as a form of exercise or even recognised as ‘walking’.
The survey found the most popular motivation for recreational walking was to relax and calm down when stressed, angry or anxious (84%). Reflecting these factors, 78% agreed they were more likely to go for a walk if there was a nice park nearby.
Overall, facilitating walking for transport is more likely to increase physical activity by young people than recreational walking programs. For a range of reasons however, recreational walking is likely to appeal to less active, ‘nonsporty’ young women as a form of exercise.
Walking, often combined with public transport, provides a critical opportunity for young people to lead independent lives. Suburban environments that are difficult to walk around or to use public transport leave many young people reliant on parents or others to drive them.