Centre for Social Justice in Sport

INVESTIGATING equity and diversity in CLIMBING AND WALKING activities

Research dedicated to understanding and overcoming the barriers to participation in climbing and walking activities. 

INVESTIGATING equity and diversity in CLIMBING AND WALKING activities

The Challenge

Walking is known to be the most participated in outdoor activity in the UK and Ireland. Those who spend time in the outdoors in England are most likely to walk, hike or ramble, with 27% of participants taking part in walking related activities. Climbing too is incredibly popular, with over one million people climbing independently indoors in the UK. Of those who regularly climb indoors in the UK, 48% of participants also regularly climb outdoors. With increased attention being paid to diversity and inclusion in walking, climbing and outdoor related activities, it has become obvious to researchers and organisations that there is a lack of available and high-quality data that tells us who is and who is not participating. People do not sign into a National Park, the mountains or your local park and therefore it is difficult to accurately know who is taking part in activities.    

The information that we do have tells us that in England, those from an ethnic minority background are 60% less likely to visit the natural environment than the rest of the population, the existence of personal disability or a long term-illness can be a significant constraint to participation in outdoor activities, and women tend to participate in outdoor recreation at lower rates than men for reasons including societal gender expectations, lack of exposure and fear. However, we have limited data of varying quality on participation in walking and climbing related activities, for example, by different faith groups, those who identify themselves as outside of the binary genders (female and male are the binary genders) and LGBTQIA+ participation, amongst other aspects of identity.  

We have problems with equity and diversity in the outdoors and organisations have started making changes to improve opportunities and services. You may be thinking, why do we need more data if we already know there is a problem? We acknowledge, praise and learn from those who are speaking out about lack of diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. It is important that organisations and individuals listen to those who are speaking out, telling us what the issues, constraints and barriers are. This research project does not seek to discover lots of new ideas, but to develop the resources and quality of data available to support driving change. We will always elevate those who are already putting in work with positive impact and hope that the data we generate can further support efforts. This is about working collaboratively to reach our goal of a more inclusive outdoors. A high-quality data set also means that we can measure how successful initiatives and changes have been when we look back in future years.   


The outputs of this research will be used by the funding partners to support the development and implementation of evidence-based diversity and inclusion strategies. 

The approach

Earlier this year Mountain Training commissioned Leeds Beckett University to conduct a large-scale study investigating participant demographics in walking and climbing related activities. On 28th April 2021 we launched the 'Your movement matters' survey to gather data to gain a better understanding of who is and who is not participating in walking and climbing related activities in the UK and Ireland.  

The first major step was conducting a large-scale rapid literature review of all available texts including academic research, organisation reports and other information held within the industry to see what is already out there. A major challenge at this stage was the sheer amount of "no data" or lack of detail available. We mentioned that there is a lack of data for faith groups' participation in walking and climbing, and indeed if you filter data for England (Active Lives) by faith and walking and climbing related activities, it largely returns "no data, no data". This is frustrating but told us that we needed to collect this information via the Your Movement Matters survey.  

We also conducted consultation meetings with the funding partners (Mountain Training, the British Mountaineering Council, the Association of British Climbing Walls, NICAS (National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes), Ramblers, the Camping and Caravanning Club, the Outdoor Industries Association and Plas y Brenin National Outdoor Centre) to better understand what their desires were for the research outputs.  

Using what we found during the review and the desires of the funding partners, we crafted the Your Movement Matters survey using Qualtrics. We asked adults (aged 16+) to participate, no matter what an individuals’ background, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, faith, socio-economic status, disability, mental-health condition and where they live within the UK and Ireland. Our desire was to hear from people who participate in a wide range of activities including seasoned mountaineers, people who walk their dogs in the local park, occasional or regular indoor climbers, and those who do not do any of these activities. The survey asked questions about their identity, their participation in walking and climbing, motivators, constraints and barriers, and desires for participation. The survey was open from 28th April to 8th June 2021.  

Research Outputs

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