Movement is vital to our health.
Movement is fundamental to human wellbeing, and our modern sedentary lifestyles are a health catastrophe. Sedentary living now kills more people than obesity, but the solution is simple. Scientists call activity ‘the miracle pill’ – if you could turn incidental daily movement into a drug, it would be the most valuable pill in the world. Most people know physical activity is good for us and too many of us don’t do enough of it. If we did, then we’d massively reduce risks ranging from heart disease and diabetes, to cancer, arthritis, depression, and even dementia.
So, that’s the context. The big question is how we move and why we move. Active travel is part of the answer, but what does it mean?
In essence, active travel is management and policy-speak for walking and cycling. Almost every council in the UK will have an active travel officer, or a team that sits within its transport department and many academics champion the concept. But it goes further than just walking and riding a bicycle. Active travel is about any form of mobility that doesn’t involve a car; it’s about the active transportation or movement of people or goods, through non-motorised means, based around human physical activity.
If we can get out of our cars and start walking and cycling to work, school or the shops, we will all become healthier and happier. It’s not going to work for every journey, or for everybody – so you have to think about access to public transport, and adapt the trip to include some element of active travel if you are transporting small children or the elderly or disabled. If you think about why you are going somewhere, then you can adapt the trip to be healthier, both for you and the environment.
It takes a bit of planning sometimes, but it is worth it. We often immediately think of walking and cycling, although other modes of active transport include running, rowing, skateboarding, kick scooters and roller skates and, in rural areas like Gloucestershire, horse riding is right up there too. Active travel can be linked to car sharing, ride sharing and community initiatives, or just be about spending time outside.
Best practice suggests that every place of work, school or major destination should have what’s called an active travel plan – basically advice and guidance on how to get to that place safely by walking, riding a bike or taking public transport. For schools, colleges and employers, it should be a no brainer – taking an active route to work, for example, stimulates the brain, helps improve the health of workers and sends positive neurons buzzing around the brain ready for the day ahead.
Andrew is a co-founder and director of Just Ride the Bike and a director of Frank & Brown. He has over 25-years experience in PR, communications and journalism primarily in the built environment.