Document explores promotion of walking and cycling among healthcare organisations
The introduction of cycle routes, bike hire services and car clubs, and the provision of safety equipment, may help NHS trusts to promote the benefits of physical exercise and reduce car journeys, new research suggests.
The Department of Health has asked the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce new guidance on measures that can be taken by NHS organisations and private and voluntary sector groups to encourage people to walk and cycle more.
NICE has been asked to formulate guidance on the promotion of walking and cycling by healthcare organisations
As part of a wider campaign to reduce carbon emissions and improve public health, the guidance will provide recommendations for good practice based on best available evidence of effectiveness and cost effectiveness and will complement existing NICE guidance encouraging physical activity.
It will consider the health impacts and the wider economic and environmental impacts arising from promoting walking and cycling as a form of transport; for instance any resulting reduction in carbon emissions or congestion.
The draft scope for the guidance states: “There is clear evidence that being physically active is essential for good health. For instance, people who are physically active reduce their risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 50%. However, based on self reporting, 61% of men and 71% of women in England aged 16 and over do not meet the national recommended levels of physical activity.”
This evidence is despite the fact that, according to research, walking is the most common, and cycling the fourth most common, recreational and sporting activity undertaken by adults in Britain.
The guidance will suggest local interventions that organisations can use to raise awareness of, and remove barriers to, walking and cycling. These are expected to include media campaigns, promotional activities, resource provision, and skills training. But they will also highlight ways in which facilities can be improved through changes such as traffic calming measures, parking reviews and cycle route planning. Cycle hire schemes, the provision of safety equipment and pedometers, and car clubs are also likely to be addressed.
Cycling and walking are also important ways for people to get to local places and services. This, in turn, could boost the local economy while having a positive impact on the environment
The draft document states that, in 2009, of all trips made in Great Britain, 20% covered less than one mile and more than half of car journeys were less than five miles. Cycle use is also lower in Britain than in other EU countries.
It adds: “Changes in the number of people walking and cycling could have an impact on health, the environment and the economy. Health outcomes include increased physical activity and changes to conditions such as obesity CVD, diabetes, some cancers and mental wellbeing. Cycling and walking are also important ways for people to get to local places and services. This, in turn, could boost the local economy while having a positive impact on the environment. For example, a decision to cycle or walk, rather than drive, reduces the emission of air pollutants including carbon dioxide.”
The guidance will also explore any potential negative impacts from such a move. These could include cycling replacing a more intense activity such as going to the gym, thus resulting in an overall reduction in physical activity. In addition, NICE researchers will look at the level of exposure of walkers and cyclists to air pollution and how injuries could be reduced.
The guidance is due to be published later this year