Walking and cycling should become the norm for short journeys and should be encouraged throughout local communities, according to new guidance published today (28 November) by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
NICE recommends that local authorities, schools and workplaces should introduce ways to enable their communities to be more physically active and change their behaviours. Its guidance has been welcomed by the DfT and Sustrans.
It sets out how people can increase the amount they walk or cycle to help meet public health and other goals, such as traffic congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
The guidance is for commissioners, managers and practitioners involved in physical activity promotion or who work in the environment, parks and leisure or transport planning sectors. The recommendations cover local programmes, policy and planning, schools, workplaces and the NHS.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE, said: “As a nation, we are not physically active enough and this can contribute to a wide range of health problems. It is important that there is comprehensive, evidence-based guidance in place that can help address these issues.
“We want to encourage and enable people to walk and cycle more and weave these forms of travel into everyday life. This guidance is aimed at making it easier for people to do this, as well as explaining the benefits and helping to address some of the safety fears that some people may have.”
Norman Baker, transport minister, said: “I welcome NICE’s guidance on walking and cycling and its recognition that encouraging more people to travel actively is a great way to improve public health. From April, the responsibility for public health will return to local authorities and we want transport, planning and health professionals to work together to help people change the way they travel.
“We want to see more people walking and cycling and this new guidance will play a valuable role in making sure that the funding we are providing translates into local measures that help more people to get more active.”
Philip Insall, director of health for Sustrans said: “Inactive lifestyles are now causing as many early deaths as smoking – if a virus was this deadly it would fill the front pages and dominate debates in parliament.
“Walking and cycling are among the easiest ways to get active but many people are understandably put off by traffic, safety fears and lack of experience.
“It is now critical to make our roads safer and help everyone to feel confident on a bike or on foot. We need government and local authorities to implement these recommendations immediately to improve people’s lives now and save the NHS billions in the long run.”
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