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Blog Post 6 April 2021

Active travel: the benefits of walking and cycling

On Wednesday 7 April 2021, people around the globe joined a new campaign to build a fairer, healthier planet on World Health Day.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted, the world is an unequal one, with some able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others.

This year, the World Health Organization called on leaders to ensure that everyone has living and working conditions that are conducive to good health, as well as access to quality health services when and where they need them.

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.

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 benefits

Walking is an easy way to stay healthy and even easier to fit into your lifestyle – and it’s something that we can all do safely during lockdown. Try walking to the shops instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the lift if you live in a block of flats, doing socially distanced walks with a friend, or getting off public transport a stop early.

You can walk almost anywhere, so by grabbing your shoes and heading out, 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 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.
  • A fitter body – walking is a low impact exercise, good for your joints and alleviating joint pain, and even better for losing weight and improving muscles.

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 and weight.

Cycling benefits

Cycling is one the quickest and healthiest forms of active travel. 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, which aren’t just about reducing carbon emissions. Sophie, assistant programme manager at Energy Saving Trust, says: “I enjoy the effort vs reward ration of uphill/downhill – there’s no greater feeling than conquering a hill and then zooming down it at the end with the wind in your hair.”

Other 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 – but remember to stay within your local area during lockdown restrictions.
  • All you need to start out with is a bike and helmet if riding during the day, making it an 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!

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.

We expect to see many more people joining this sustainable lifestyle in the coming months, especially as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer. So, now is a great time to make the most out of walking or cycling – you could even be taking the first step to improving your health and wellbeing at the same time.

Last updated: 28 April 2021