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Blog Post 8 October 2021

Active travel: the benefits of walking, wheeling and cycling

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health, with some groups including frontline workers, women, disabled people and students particularly affected. But as we begin to recover from the pandemic, we need now more than ever to make sure we are taking care of ourselves.

This year’s World Mental Health Day, which takes place on 10 October, presents an opportunity for governments, civil society organisations and many others to make mental health care for all a reality.

We can start this at home by ensuring that we look after the health and wellbeing of ourselves, our families, and our friends – and what better way to do this than by getting active on your next journey in whatever way works for you.

What is active travel?

Simply put, active travel involves using your body to make the journey. It’s an important part of leading a healthier lifestyle and can also help to decarbonise transport systems in towns and cities. The UK Government has even set out a cycling and walking plan for England to support this. So, what are some of the benefits and why should you take part?

Walking and wheeling benefits

Walking or wheeling can be easy ways to stay healthy and even easier to fit into your lifestyle – and it’s something that many of us can do safely. Walking costs nothing, and wheeling provides more opportunity to get out and about. If you can, try walking or wheeling to the shops instead of driving, doing socially distanced walks or wheels with a friend, or getting off public transport a stop early.

You can walk or wheel almost anywhere, and you’ll see benefits including:

  • Finding new places – by exploring your local area, you might find shortcuts, new sights and sounds or maybe even a new favourite walk or wheel through nature.
  • Improved health benefits – just 30 minutes of walking a day can increase your heart and lung fitness, while reducing risk of chronic and cardiovascular disease.
  • Improved fitness – walking is a low impact exercise, good for your joints and alleviating joint pain, and even better improving muscles.
  • Better for the environment – if you choose to walk or wheel just one mile a week instead of driving, you’ll save 26kg of carbon dioxide a year.

Walking has been proven to improve your health and happiness too. Walking regularly can reduce the risk of heart disease by 35%, while active travel helps manage stress.

Cycling benefits

Cycling is one the quickest and healthiest forms of active travel for many people. People around the UK are already seeing positive health benefits, with local governments supporting cyclists with plans to convert roads into cycle super-highways. Our cycling tips and advice can help you play your part in protecting the planet through active travel.

As you can imagine, there are many benefits to picking up a pair of wheels – whether that’s a regular bicycle, an electric bike or an adapted cycle, which aren’t just about reducing carbon emissions.

Benefits that come from cycling include:

  • It can be faster than public transport in built-up areas, saving time as you filter safely through the traffic. You can cycle up to five miles in 25 minutes (depending on route and fitness levels).
  • It can be a great step towards a healthier lifestyle, building muscle, and improving your heart and lung capacity.
  • It’s a great way to discover new places.
  • All you need to start out with is a bike and helmet if riding during the day, making it a relatively affordable way to get around.
  • It’s much cheaper than using a car or public transport – after the initial cost of the bike and occasional maintenance, it’s free!

Cycling UK’s Inclusive Cycling Network helps thousands of people to experience cycling for the first time each year – find out more on their website.

Make an adventure out of it

The great thing about picking up a bike is that you can cycle straight away. If it’s been a while since you’ve been on the road, refresh your memory with the Highway Code for cyclists. Or check out Cycling UK’s website, which has plenty of cycling tips and advice.

If you want to find some new or interesting cycle routes, there are plenty of places to look. Lots of cities have cycling-specific maps showing dedicated cycleways, so there’s no limit to how far your bike can take you.

Now is a great time to make the most out of active travel – whatever that means for you – you could even be taking the first step to improving your health and wellbeing at the same time.

Last updated: 8 October 2021