02 September 2015

Stage 1 of the SPARColl research programme

The research approach to SPARColl has been developed in two stages. In the first stage we have conducting a systematic review of interventions to promote walking, a mapping exercise of activities aimed at the promotion of walking in Scotland and a multi-disciplinary community based walking intervention called Walking for Wellbeing in the West.

Walking for Wellbeing in the West (WWW)

Details of WWW outputs to date can be found in the SPARColl publications section of this site.

The Walking for Wellbeing in the West (WWW) study aims to promote walking in a community in the west of Glasgow. The study begain in August 2006. The main objective of the study is to determine if a series of physical activity consultations, delivered in conjunction with an individualised walking programme and a pedometer as a motivational aid can increase and maintain walking behaviour in inactive adults. The study is examining the complex relationships between behavioural changes, health consequences and the role of the environment, along with participants, views and experiences and the cost effectiveness of this approach.


Walking behaviour is being assessed using pedometer step counts and a 7-day recall of physical activity using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire.


The Transtheoretical Model is being used as a theoretical framework to investigate the relationship between participants' psychological constructs and behaviour change.


A variety of health outcomes are being measured to assess the health impact of the intervention.


Dr Annemarie Wright is investigating how participants' perceive their local environment in relation to walking.Dr Cath Millington and Professor Catharine Ward Thompson are objectively exploring the walkability of the WWW study area using GIS and an environmental audit tool.

Qualitative Evaluation

Dr Rebecca Shaw is undertaking qualitative research alongside, but independently of, the randomised trial to help to understand the social context of WWW.

Economic Evaluation

Dr Elisabeth Fenwick is undertaking an economic evaluation of the intervention.

Systematic Review of Interventions to Promote Walking

Led by Dr David Ogilvie, a team of researchers systematically reviewed the best available evidence about the effects of interventions on how much people walk. The review has drawn on controlled experimental and observational studies in fields ranging from health care and exercise science to transport and environmental change. The review has now been published and is available freely on the BMJ website.

 Summary for Practitioners

The most promising studies suggest that it is possible to increase walking in motivated or targeted people, at least in the short term, by up to about 30-60 minutes per week. Given that about a third of adults in Scotland report fewer than one 30-minute episode of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, this suggests that interventions to promote walking could make a substantial contribution towards increasing the activity levels of sedentary people.

The most convincing evidence favours interventions which are targeted at particular groups of people and whose content is tailored to those people's needs. Successful interventions have usually been targeted at one of three types of people:

  • People with a particular clinical diagnosis, such as heart disease
  • People who have been identified as motivated to change their behaviour
  • People who are particularly sedentary

Tailoring the content to the needs of the individuals, households or groups receiving them is also likely to be important. Examples of how this has been done in successful interventions include:

  • Identifying people's positions in the 'stages of change' (transtheoretical) model and giving them written materials specific to their stage
  • Helping them to map their personal journey to school
  • Offering households a menu of information and incentives to encourage them to try using environmentally-friendly modes of transport

Different people may respond to different approaches which suit their psychological characteristics or life circumstances. In other words, one size may not fit all and a variety of approaches should be offered: some people may respond best to individual advice from their doctor, others may prefer the private feedback from a pedometer, others may respond to interventions delivered through the internet, others may prefer or need the social support of a walking group, and others may increase their walking in response to prompts about reducing their car use on environmental grounds.

Mapping of Current Walking Related Activities

To gain an insight into what activities were taking in Scotland to promote walking, SPARColl mapped activiites aimed at the promotion of walking.  Organisations/projects we contacted were Paths to Health, the Scottish Ramblers Association, Healthy Working Lives, School Travel Co-ordinators and Active Schools Co-ordinators.

The mapping exercise gave an overview of activities in Scotland aimed at promoting walking. The final report is available in the 'Reports' section of this website.


walking legs