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Forget the gym, make active travel your New Year resolution

Park and ride challenge
cyclist takes takes on the park and ride challenge
21 December 2017

You don’t have to join the gym in the New Year to work off the Christmas turkey. We recommend introducing active travel into your daily routine to improve your health and fitness. Swapping the car for the bike can also save you time and money.

To demonstrate, Sustrans' award-winning ‘Leading the Way’ Workplaces programme has produced two short films which compare driving to work with both cycling and running the same journey. The films show a typical car journey to work in Derry~Londonderry, with the aim to inspire commuters to reconsider whether driving is really the most convenient, beneficial mode of transport.

Cycling versus driving

Our Workplace Active Travel Officer Michele Murphy said: “The videos demonstrate that by using sustainable travel modes to get to work, such as cycling, walking or running, they not only save you time but can also be good for your health and well-being.

“Research has shown that organisations who promote active travel and other physical activity initiatives in the workplace are more likely to have reduced absenteeism, experience lower staff turnover and report higher levels of job satisfaction. According to a recent study cycling to work lowers your risk of premature death by as much as 40 per cent.”[i]

Derry City and Strabane District Council – on behalf of the Public Health Agency (PHA) – commissioned Sustrans to run the workplace active travel programme ‘Leading the Way’ in the North West for staff in the Western Health & Social Care Trust (WHSCT), PHA and the Council itself. This programme encourages staff to travel to and from work by sustainable means: walking, cycling, car-sharing and public transport. It mirrors a similar workplace programme which has been running for three years in Belfast.

The programme runs various initiatives to encourage staff to be more active for their journeys to and from work and throughout their working day. 

Michele said: “In November we ran an online Step Challenge in the WHSCT and PHA. Fifty teams signed up with 246 staff participating in the event. At the end of the fortnight challenge a total of 28,277 km were stepped, with the teams burning 1.4 million calories – the equivalent of nearly 6,000 doughnuts!”

The Leading the Way programme won the ‘Active Travel Workplace of the Year’ trophy at the prestigious Healthy Streets Awards in London in October. 

Walking or cycling is a great way to help individuals get active and work towards the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of 150 minutes moderate intensity physical activity each week. For advice on getting more active, visit the PHA’s website which also has tips on setting targets and more ways to move more and move more often.

Running versus driving

Find out more about what we do in workplaces in Northern Ireland

[i] A University of Glasgow study of more than a quarter of a million people over five years, published in the BMJ in April 2017 showed that cycling to work lowers the risk of dying early by 40 per cent, and reduces the chance of developing cancer by 45 per cent. Similarly a daily bike ride to the office nearly halves the risk of heart disease.