Cities in the economy of the future

By Phil Insall,
walking in the city

A physical-activity-friendly environment can be the clincher in securing investment

In the economy of the future, cities and regions will compete on many terrains: access to raw materials, cheap labour, low environmental standards, zero-tax regimes and even sun. But a physical-activity-friendly environment, promoting physical and mental health and well-being, can be the clincher in securing investment, employment and economic activity.

The relationship between physical activity and economic performance has been clear for years. 

Almost a decade ago, the government’s National Director for Health and Work said “active staff are more motivated and less prone to sickness, leading to financial reward for employers”.  This has been a natural objective of policy.

But more recently it has become understood that many of today’s business leaders have the freedom to locate absolutely anywhere on the globe. 

Some cities and regions are racing for the bottom, with exploitative treatment of workers and rotten environmental standards, while others seek to ‘trade with authority’.   Some European cities can offer the chance for a CEO and their staff to locate their families in an attractive, activity-friendly environment: a deal clincher.

This is why Sustrans, Nike and Bristol Green Capital are working together with Active Living Research (ALR) on the Active Cities initiative.

ALR carried out an evidence review, Making the Case for Designing Active Cities, now published in the high-impact International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

They state that: 
“benefits were found for environmental sustainability, economics, and multiple dimensions of health.”  Then, breaking out of the usual dry academic tone, the ALR research team went on to say that, “if ‘a good solution solves multiple problems’ then building places that support physical activity may be considered a superlative solution”.

Active Cities kicks off in the UK with a national Summit in Bristol on June 9th. 

A group of selected invitees from business, city administration, economic development and health will work with the ALR review to develop a set of key issues and recommendations on how UK cities can truly make themselves Active Cities and steal a march on the global competition.

Find out more about active cities for economic success and how Sustrans is working to boost local economies.

Follow the hashtag for the summit on the 9th #ActiveCities.




More blog posts by Phil Insall