Regular walking and cycling fosters good health says NICE

April 30th, 2012 by National Institute for Health and Clincial Excellence

Walking and cycling should be encouraged throughout the community and should become the norm for short journeys, says the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), in draft guidance published on 24 April 2012 for consultation.

Regular physical activity is key to achieving and maintaining good health. It can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 50%, and is also important for good mental health.

Michelle Duquemin walks over six miles every work day between her home and her work in St Peter Port. (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

But we know that at present people in Great Britain are not doing enough exercise.

Currently, around a third of adults in England do not even do at least half an hour of moderate physical activity per week.

Children are also not doing adequate exercise; just over half of boys aged two to 10 years old and a third of girls in the same age group achieve the recommended level of daily physical activity.

Only 7% of secondary school age boys do an hour’s moderate physical activity each day. Girls in the same age group do not even achieve this.

Walking is the most common recreational and sporting activity undertaken by adults in Britain, with cycling the fourth most common.

The average time spent traveling on foot or by bicycle has decreased from 12.9 minutes per day in 1995/97 to 11 minutes per day in 2007.

Bicycle use is lower in Britain than it is in other European Union countries. Bicycles are used in about 2% of journeys in Britain compared with about 26% of journeys in the Netherlands, 19% in Denmark and 5% in France.

Increasing levels of walking and cycle use can bring health benefits as well as a reduction in car travel, which in turn reduces air pollution, road dangers, noise and congestion.

The draft guidance recommends that commissioners, managers and practitioners working within local authorities, the NHS and the wider public, private, voluntary and community sectors working on physical activity, the environment and transport planning should take coordinated action to support and encourage people to walk or bicycle (for transport or for recreation).

A summer evening bicycle ride with the Guernsey Bicycle Group on 28 June 2011 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

This includes:

  • Ensuring local, high-level strategic policies and plans support both walking and cycling. This includes a commitment to invest sufficient resources to ensure more walking and cycling.
  • Ensuring walking and cycling are considered alongside other interventions when aiming to achieve specific outcomes in relation to the local population’s health (such as a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes).
  • Implementing town/city/suburban – wide programmes to promote cycling, this could include:
  • providing information, including maps and route signing.
  • fun rides, car-free events or days, virtual cycle races and links with cycle sports events.
  • cycle hire schemes.
  • cycle training and maintenance classes or sessions.
  • activities and campaigns to emphasise the benefits of cycling (including benefits to health, reliability and ease of access to local facilities and services).
  • Developing and implementing school travel plans that encourage all children to walk or cycle all or part of the way to school.

The guidance emphasises that encouraging and enabling people to walk or cycle, for transport or as recreation, requires action on many fronts, and from a range of different sectors.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE said “lack of physical activity is contributing to a wide range of health problems in England, so it is important that there is comprehensive, evidence-based guidance in place that can help address these issues. Increasing the amount of time people walk and cycle can have a positive impact on health, the environment and the economy. We want to encourage people to walk or cycle for any local journey that really doesn’t need the car, and also to get out in the fresh air and walk or cycle for fun. Our draft recommendations are aimed at making it easier for people to walk and cycle, as well as explaining the benefits of doing so and helping to address some of the safety fears that some people may have. I would now urge all those stakeholders with an interest in this guidance to submit their comments via the NICE website.”

The draft guidance is available on the NICE website from Tuesday 24 April 2012.

These is not NICE’s final guidance on walking and cycling. The recommendations are provisional and may change after consultation with stakeholders.


1 Response to “Regular walking and cycling fosters good health says NICE”

  1. rosie dorey

    “We want to encourage people to walk or cycle for any local journey that really doesn’t need the car……” Well quite, I couldn’t agree more! Guernsey is the perfect bike-sized island.

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