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Active travel: the benefits of walking and cycling

woman with yellow bicycle

by Nick Clarke

What is active travel? Simply put, it involves using your body to make the journey. It’s an important part of leading a healthier lifestyle and decarbonising city transport, and the UK government has 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. Try walking to local shops instead of driving, circling the block after work, taking the stairs instead of the lift, doing regular 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 cardio-vascular 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
  • new social opportunities – you can turn a quick stroll into a social activity. You don’t need to sit down to catch up with friends or family, try going for a walk with them instead

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 us with plans to convert large portions of roads into cycle super-highways. Our 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."

Some of the other benefits that come from cycling are:

  • it can actually be faster than public transport in built-up areas, saving time as you filter through the traffic. You can cycle up to five miles in 25 minutes (depending on route and fitness levels)
  • it can also be a great step towards a healthier lifestyle, building muscle, and improving your heart and lung capacity
  • it can be social, going on cycling trips with friends and family, across town or into the countryside can be incredibly fun and rewarding
  • 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 this an inexpensive way to get around
  • it is a very cheap method of travel, apart from the initial cost of the bike and occasional maintenance, and much cheaper than a car or public transport

Cycling resources

cycle lane on road with cyclist

The great thing about picking up a bike is that you can cycle straight away. If you want to get the most out of your cycling adventures, check out some of these resources:

Make an adventure out of it

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, so now is a great time to find your feet and make the most of walking or cycling.

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