Walking and cycling makes Scotland’s economy healthier

Two female cyclists on a bright sunny day
23 September 2015

New evidence from Sustrans Scotland shows that health benefits of walking and cycling journeys on the National Cycle Network in 2014 were worth a staggering £321 million. The new finding has been calculated using the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ‘Health economic assessment tool’ (HEAT) and gives the value of reduced mortality resulting from walking and cycling.

New figures collected by the charity show that the estimated number of walking and cycling trips on the National Cycle Network in Scotland, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, was 121 million in 2014.  

Sustrans’ surveys also found that 58.4% of users of walking and cycling routes reported that they met their recommended level physical activity of 30 minutes on five days a week.

Commenting on the findings, John Lauder, Sustrans Scotland National Director, said:

“When it comes to Scotland’s health, it’s clear that active travel is one of the best value investments that any government can make – with the health benefits valued at hundreds of millions of pounds.

“Scotland’s National Cycle Network is an asset when it comes to tackling obesity, one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS today. Walking and cycling allows people to meet the recommended levels of exercise just by making every day journeys under their own steam. The estimated number trips on the Network shows there’s a clear demand for safe and attractive walking and cycling routes.”

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said:

“Taking the recommended amount of physical activity can dramatically cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. It can also greatly improve mental wellbeing. The National Cycle Network is extremely valuable because it makes it easier for people to make physical activity part of their daily routines.”

Chair of BMA Scotland, Dr Peter Bennie, said:

“Health problems associated with obesity such as diabetes, liver disease and cancer cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds every year. Helping people to make healthy choices with regard to their diet and activity levels can help to reduce that pressure on the NHS, so it is hugely important that the right infrastructure is in place to encourage people to walk or cycle more.”

Find out more about Sustrans work in Scotland.

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