Year of Environmental Actions: Walking and Cycling
16th June 2022
Have you ever wondered about the benefits of walking and cycling? I love cycling, but I don’t often stop to think about it. I do know that I feel calmer, happier and less stressed when cycling to work compared with sitting in my car in traffic jams! Walking and cycling are the perfect way to fit exercise into your daily routine, cheaper than the gym and replacing just one journey a week by active travel (walking or cycling) can reduce personal CO2 emissions and help to tackle the climate crisis.
Getting out on your bike or walking to the shops, commuting to work, or going out for leisure can have huge benefits for your physical and mental well-being. Any exercise is good for you, but studies show that exercising outdoors has even greater benefits for your mental health. When I’m cycling to work along the Leeds Liverpool canal towpath, I love seeing the wildlife on the canal- ducks, swans, geese, herons and if I’m lucky a kingfisher! The bright yellow of the irises and water lily flowers bring a smile to my face and on a still day, the reflections of the trees, clouds and hills in the canal are beautiful. When I contrast this with negotiating traffic, driving along the dual carriageway concentrating on other cars and unable to notice nature, I realise that travelling by bike (or foot) is so much better. Sometimes the weather isn’t nice and it is physically harder than driving, but the benefits to physical and mental health and the environment are worth the extra effort. Studies have shown that walking and cycling can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol and release feel-good hormones, endorphins which boost mood and can reduce anxiety. Being active, such as by walking and cycling, helps you sleep better and can help you to feel calm and mindful.
Walking and cycling instead of using the car decrease air pollution. This will lower CO2 emissions which contribute to climate change and reduce other air pollution which is bad for our health causing respiratory illnesses like asthma and other diseases including cancer. Other environmental benefits of active travel include reducing noise pollution which will benefit wildlife and biodiversity. In addition, if more people walk and cycle, more green space will be created as traffic free routes often have more space for planting as bikes and people take up less space than cars.
Cycling and walking can also have social benefits. There are many walking and cycling clubs and groups who help beginners get started with their new hobby and great friends are made along the way. Cycling and walking are also a great way to have family adventures. Whether it’s a walk to a local park with a picnic, a cycle ride along a traffic free path with friends or a cycle tour taking in hills, views and carrying all your own gear, being active with your friends or family can be a lot of fun.
Programme Coordinator (wellbeing)
If you’d like to start cycling Capital of Cycling offers free adult cycle lessons and bike maintenance courses.