What works to promote walking at the population level? A systematic review

Charlie Foster, Paul Kelly, Hamish Reid, Nia Roberts, Elaine Murtagh, David K Humphreys, Jenna Panter, Karen Milton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Interventions to promote walking have focused on individual or group based approaches – often via the RCT design. Walking can also be promoted using population health approaches. We systematically reviewed the effectiveness of population approaches to promote walking among individuals and populations.
Design. A systematic review
Data Sources. 10 electronic databases searched from January 1990 to March 2017
Eligibility Criteria. Pre and post or experiment studies of the effects of population interventions to change walking. Effects must have been compared with a “no intervention,” or comparison group/area/population, or variation in exposure; duration ≥12 months follow up; participants in free-living populations; English language articles.
Results. 12 studies were identified from mostly urban high-income countries (one focusing on using a tax – incentivising the loss of parking spaces); one using policy only (permitting off-leash dogs in city parks). Five studies used mass media with either environment (n=2) or community approaches (n=3). Four studies used environmental changes that were combined with policies. One study had scaled up school-based approaches to promote safe routes to schools. We found mass media, community initiatives and environmental change approaches increased walking (range from 9 to 75 mins/week).
Summary. Delivering mass media, community initiatives and environmental change together appears to lead to more walking at the population level. There are insufficient data to comment on effectiveness of specific activities within population experimental studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-812
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Early online date31 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 May 2018


  • walking
  • systematic review
  • public health


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