Leading organisations join forces to improve diversity in the adventure activities sector

  • Group announce commitments following ‘Your Movement Matters’ report into participation in outdoor pursuits and related indoor activities
  • Barriers to participation among diverse groups include costs, a lack of role models and access to facilities and environments

Eight of the UK’s leading walking, climbing and outdoor leisure organisations have come together to agree several commitments designed to improve diversity within the sector.

The Association of British Climbing Walls, the British Mountaineering Council, The Camping and Caravanning Club, the National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes, Mountain Training, the Outdoor Industries Association, Plas y Brenin and Ramblers agreed the commitments after conducting original research ‘Your Movement Matters’, designed to understand current participation in activities as well as the key barriers and enablers.

In the first collaborative project of its kind, the group commissioned Leeds Beckett University to undertake research into the demographics of participation in all levels of activity, from urban walking or indoor climbing to overseas mountaineering. Conducted with a sample of more than 4,700 people living in the UK, the research measured the true state of participation by different communities to help inform and shape the group’s collective approach to improving diversity. A snapshot of the findings can be viewed here.

The research indicated an encouragingly representative gender split of people who climb indoors at 50% male, 46% female and 3% other genders, with non-mountainous walking activities similarly representative at 49% male, 48% female, 2% other genders. Survey respondents who climb outdoors and who go mountaineering are still predominantly male, accounting for 58% and 57% respectively.

The survey showed that people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority heritages were more likely to walk for leisure in an urban setting (81%) than all respondents (76%) but less likely to walk in the hills (63% compared to 73%). The different age profile of this group was also noteworthy with 44% of those who walk for leisure being under the age of 34, more than double the 21% of all other respondents in this age band. This indicates a growing number of individuals whose enthusiasm to explore should be supported and championed by the wider outdoor sector and other organisations, such as the research funders, in order to sustain a lifetime of participation in walking activities.

The reports revealed the motivations of participants; an overwhelming majority of people who participate in walking, climbing and mountaineering activities recognise the positive benefit that it has on their mental health (71% of indoor climbers). Spending time in nature was also highlighted as a huge motivation (94% of walkers). When this knowledge is combined with the extensive existing research that demonstrates the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor activity, it is clear that people who feel unable to take part in these activities are being deprived not just of the activities, but of the many benefits they enable.

Survey respondents identified several barriers preventing activities in the sector from being as diverse as they could be, including a lack of representation and role models, the cost of taking part and a lack of transportation and access to facilities and environments.

Welcoming the reports, the partners will use the findings to support the development and implementation of evidence-based diversity and inclusion strategies, the impact of which will be felt across the sector. As a first step, all eight partners have committed to:

  • Educating ourselves and our workforce – to gain greater insight from the lived experiences of those who are underrepresented.
  • Improving the diversity of people – within all levels of our organisations and in the imagery used to promote walking, climbing and camping.
  • Developing collaborative relationships – with community groups and individuals who can help us effect change and improve pathways for people to access walking, climbing and camping.
  • Holding ourselves accountable – for our actions and setting targets to improve equity, diversity and inclusion.

John Cousins, Mountain Training CEO commented: “This research has not only highlighted areas where we do well, it also highlights challenges for us to address. It has provided the activity-specific data we need to focus our energies as we strive to make walking, climbing and camping as diverse and welcoming as possible. The report findings will inform how we, both as a group and as individual organisations, approach strategies and initiatives to remove barriers and most of all, make these great activities accessible to everyone. No one should feel unwelcome to participate in walking, climbing or camping activities.

“It is clear that as a group of enthusiasts and leaders, we currently have limited connections to grassroots groups from underrepresented communities and we must do more to address this across every element of our organisations and in everything we do.”

To find out more about Your Movement Matters and to read the full reports, please visit: https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/research/centre-of-social-justice-in-sport-and-society/investigating-equity-and-diversity-in-climbing-and-walking-activities



Research conducted by Leeds Beckett University – Carnegie School of Sport

The Your Movement Matters survey is a walking and climbing activity based, self-completed online survey of individuals in the UK and Ireland. It is a key evidence source of the demographics of those who generally participate in outdoor activities, with a focus on the specific activities of interest (walking, climbing; indoor and outdoor, and mountain activities), people’s motivations, barriers faced, and opportunities to undertake the activities.

The survey ran from 28th April 2021 to 8th June 2021. Participation was open to all aged 16 + in the UK and Ireland and 4,538 individuals completed the survey. This work provides key data and understanding which can inform practice and drive policy change.

For more information, please contact Nicola Jasieniecka, Media & IT Development Officer at Mountain Training, nicola@mountain-training.org

The funding organisations are:

Association of British Climbing Walls – Promoting the professionalism, health, growth and diversity of indoor climbing.

BMC (British Mountaineering Council) – The representative body for walkers and climbers in England and Wales.

The Camping and Caravanning Club – The world’s oldest and largest Club for all forms of camping.

National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes (NICAS) – these are UK-wide climbing and bouldering schemes designed to promote climbing development and accredit individual achievement on artificial climbing structures.

Mountain Training – The network of UK & Ireland awarding bodies for skills courses and leadership qualifications in walking, climbing and mountaineering. Find out what Mountain Training is planning following the results of the research: Equity Diversity Inclusion – Mountain Trainings next steps

Outdoor Industries Association – The trade body for manufacturers, retailers and other organisations that provide products and services for the outdoor leisure pursuits market in the United Kingdom.

Plas y Brenin – A national outdoor centre, Plas y Brenin develops the people that develop the outdoor sector – from instructors to centre managers to expedition leaders to NGB officers to policymakers.

Ramblers helps everyone, everywhere, enjoy walking and protects the places we all love to walk. It is the only charity dedicated to looking after paths and green spaces, leading walks, opening up new places to explore and encouraging everyone to get outside and discover how walking boosts your health and your happiness.