Simple everyday answer to £50billion obesity problem

Today’s Public Health White Paper announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has received a cautious welcome from UK charity Sustrans.

Sustrans agrees with Lansley that “active travel and physical activity need to become the norm in communities” But the charity says much more commitment and detail are needed, particularly in reducing traffic speeds and volumes and in shifting transport investment to healthy ways of travelling.

Philip Insall, Sustrans’ Heath Director, said, ‘Walking and cycling for everyday journeys are recognised as the most practical, inexpensive and accessible ways for people to include physical activity into their daily lives.

‘They are crucial elements in tackling the growing problem of obesity and related illnesses, and the huge costs that come with it – forecast to be £50 billion a year by 2050. The White Paper rightly recognises the importance of active travel, but it lacks detail on how the Health and Transport departments will make it happen. This is doubly disappointing given that walking and cycling measures are much cheaper, and much better value than traditional transport investment’.

The London 2012 Olympic Games legacy aims to help at least 2 million people become more active. Sustrans has already shown how this can be done. In 2009 alone more than 2 million people were more physically active through walking and cycling on the National Cycle Network, more than half of whom were previously not active enough to benefit their health.

Sustrans also helps 130,000 children every year to be more active by enabling them to make the school journey by foot or bike. The number of children cycling every day increased more than threefold, giving pupils a head start in healthy, active travel habits.

Philip continues, ‘We are already demonstrating that if safe and attractive walking and cycling routes exist, people will use them. If schoolchildren are helped to overcome the barriers to travelling by foot or bike then they happily do so. Government policy needs to recognise this and respond to it with serious investment’.

Source: Sustrans