We often talk about sustainable transport – electric cars, public transport and cycling, but the most sustainable transport of all is, of course, walking! Friedrich Nietzsche once declared that “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” This is also backed up by studies by Stanford University which have shown that a person’s creative output increases by around 60% when walking.
In many cities, employers have become increasingly cycle friendly in recent years – providing cycle parking, lockers and showers, cycle training, loans to buy bikes and cycle maintenance sessions. But could more be done to increase our walking?
Encouraging walking, both within the workplace, as well as for travelling to and from work, brings significant benefits for staff and for employers. These range from creativity to physical and mental health, including a reduced risk of depression.
Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally. The results of a recent survey of more than 14,000 people in Scotland indicate that for adults in work, time spent being inactive during weekdays is greater than people aged 75 and above.
Long periods spent sitting at work have public health implications, including increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.
This is recognised by some companies which are designing their offices to encourage walking. One major electronics company’s headquarters has been designed around a walking layout so that employees are never more than a floor away from stepping outside for a walk.
Other companies are incorporating a “daily mile” route to encourage employees to get out for a walk. While others design their grounds so that staff can use for a meeting or a stroll at lunchtime.
We can design physical activity back into our everyday lives by incentivising and facilitating walking as regular daily transport, creating environments that encourage healthier choices. Businesses can play a key role in this and as a result will have healthier and happier staff.
Actions that businesses can take include promoting walking meetings, having a “daily mile” route (this could just be a convenient mile route marked on a map on local streets around a business) and promoting walking initiatives by offering incentives to buy good quality walking trainers or activity trackers.
Walking is the lowest-carbon, least polluting form of transport. It’s a great social leveller and having people walking through urban spaces makes them safer for others. And best of all – it is free, it is reliable and it makes people happy and healthier.