Northern Ireland’s first walking conference champions the ‘Power of Walking’

The Public Health Agency, Sport NI and Outdoor Recreation NI on Wednesday 14th November hosted a ‘Power of Walking’ conference in Queen’s Riddle Hall Belfast, to demonstrate how achieving a stronger culture of walking has the power to offer enormous benefits for the local population in Northern Ireland.

The conference was opened by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride and Chair of Sport NI, George Lucas. The conference featured renowned experts from GB and Ireland from the health, environment, community, sport and physical activity sectors, showcasing the latest research, practices and evidence on walking.

Reflecting on benefits of walking Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said,

“Walking offers a range of physical and mental health benefits. These include reducing the risk of disease, managing existing conditions, supporting people to maintain a healthy weight and developing and maintaining good mental health and wellbeing. That is why promoting walking along with improving diet and nutrition is at the heart of our obesity prevention framework – A Fitter Future for All 2012 – 2022.”

George Lucas, Sport NI Chair commented:

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work in partnership with multiple agencies in the delivery of sport participation in the outdoors.

SportNI in the coming years will focus heavily on making sport accessible for all, whilst continuing to support sustained participation in sport through the development of vibrant, dynamic and forward thinking National Governing Bodies and partnership working.

Walking and rambling clubs potentially offer a very simple and informal pathway into the sporting system and offer similar outcomes such as enormous potential health benefits, societal and economic benefits to the citizens of Northern Ireland.”

Summing up the conference Outdoor Recreation NI Chair, Dawson Stelfox commented,

“Walking is of interest to society as a whole.  It is therefore vital that we get it embedded into the heart of the Programme for Government moving forward.  As a relatively small County, we should be able to effectively build partnerships between Government Departments, Councils, voluntary and third sector organisations and through learning from best practice, together create a culture of walking in Northern Ireland.”

Image Caption: (L to R) GP Dr William Bird, SportNI Chairman George Lucas, Outdoor Recreation NI Chairman Dawson Stelfox and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride