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Health Benefits of Active Travel

For most people, the easiest and most acceptable forms of physical activity are those that can be built into everyday life, such as walking/cycling instead of travelling by car or using stairs instead of lifts. ‘Active travel’ means walking, cycling or using non-motorised transport as an alternative to motorised transport for the purpose of making daily journeys, which can often be seamlessly built into everyday life as part of normal daily routines.


The benefits of cycling


To be fit and healthy we need to be physically active. Regular physical activity – particularly cycling and walking - can protect people from diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis. In particular, regularly riding a bicycle is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.


  • Low impact – it causes less strain and injuries than most other forms of exercise
  • A good muscle workout – cycling uses all of the major muscle groups as you pedal
  • Easy – unlike some other sports, cycling does not require high levels of physical skill
  • Good for strength and stamina – cycling increases stamina, strength and aerobic fitness
  • As intense as you want – cycling can be done at very low intensity to begin with, if recovering from injury or illness, but can be built up to a demanding physical workout
  • A fun way to be active – the adventure and buzz you get from being outdoors means you are more likely to continue to cycle regularly, compared to other physical activities that keep you indoors or require special times or places
  • Time-efficient – as a mode of transport, cycling replaces sedentary (sitting) time spent driving motor vehicles or using public transport with healthy exercise



The benefits of walking


According to the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, scientists say that men and women of 65 years of age or older, who walked for at least 4 hours every week, were at less risk of cardiovascular disease. 



Closer to home, the HSE advise that by staying physically active, the risk of up to 35 chronic diseases is reduced, as well as helping with bone health, breathing difficulties and high blood pressure. Being physically active can reduce your risk of deleoping a long-term condition by up to 50%. It can also reduce the risk of premature death by 20-30%. 


In addition, the Arthritis Foundation cites the following as a benefit of walking:

  • Improves circulation
  • Lightens mood
  • Can lead to weight loss
  • Strengthens muscles
  • Improves sleep
  • Supports joints
  • Can lower Alzheimer’s risk.


There is significant evidence that physical activity promotes wellbeing, physical and mental health, prevents disease, improving quality of life. Conversely, physical inactivity is one of the leading risk factors for global mortality.


Surveys conducted by the Government’s Healthy Ireland campaign in 2019 show that 46% of people aged 15 and older are achieving the minimum level of activity recommended by the National Guidelines on Physical Activity in Ireland (30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week). The surveys also show that almost two-thirds (64%) of those not currently achieving the National Physical Activity Guidelines would like to be more physically active than they are currently.


The provision of dedicated, traffic-free, sustainable infrastructure would encourage more people to integrate walking and cycling easily into their daily routine.