The benefits of a physically active workforce
A new report on the benefits of a physically active workforce was published today by local transport chiefs in the Liverpool City Region.
Available to download for free, the Arrive Happy report highlights the positive impact walking and cycling, as part of a daily commute, can have on the financial success of an organisation and gives employers hints and tips for helping their employees to get started.
According to the national transport charity Sustrans, sick days cost the average UK company around £258 a day. And while the average worker misses 4.5 days a year due to illness, cyclists – for example – take a much lower 2.4 days off a year – an estimated saving of over £500 per year for each cycling employee.
Walking or cycling to work has been shown to make a big difference in other worker health outcomes too; one recent study showed that regular active commuting led to an overall 11% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease in the UK.
The wider health benefits to our economy of cycling have been estimated at £159.48 per cyclist per year. In other words, if £160 per cyclist was spent on promoting cycling, the health benefits would pay this back in one year, through a combination of savings to the NHS, productivity, and fewer deaths through poor health.
Active people, whether walking or cycling, see a drop in obesity, heart disease and respiratory problems. They’re also happier, liberated from traffic queues and the inevitable quest for a parking space.
Councillor Liam Robinson, Chair of the Combined Authority Transport Committee, which oversees the work of Merseytravel, regularly cycles to work,
“Cycling for me is more than just a great way to get around the City Region, it helps me feel more energised and sleep better – plus it’s easy to fit in at the beginning or end of the day.
“A city of more active commuters will also help us to tackle air quality, get more people into work, and make good our aspirations to be a more sustainable city. My advice to anyone who wants to walk or cycle more would be to start small and see how far you can go.”
”Karen Caffrey, MD of Homecarers Liverpool, has long been a supporter of the benefits of promoting cycling and walking,
“As a responsible employer we recognise the wider benefits of investing in the health of our workforce, supporting and motivating staff through a range of initiatives from access to a pool bike to simple diet and nutritional advice. The feedback has been really positive with staff highlighting not only the general improvement in their feeling of wellbeing and overall fitness but also the fact that cycling has made their journey to work easier and helped them to save money.”
Paul Cherpeau, CEO of Liverpool & Sefton Chamber, has welcomed the campaign,
“The Chamber has worked closely with Merseytravel over recent years to encourage employers to promote sustainable transport, particularly as a way to reduce staff sick absence which not only impacts on an individual business but also on the wider city region economy. One of the barriers for small businesses in particular, is knowing where to access practical advice and support and the Arrive Happy campaign will allow employers to identify the solutions which best meet their business needs, whilst at the same time supporting staff to reach their own personal health and fitness goals.”
Studies show that those who cycle or walk are a lot happier about their commute, too. Research from the Victoria Transport Institute for example, shows the relative satisfaction, by mode, of Canadian commuters when asked whether they liked or disliked their commute. Of all modes, only a fraction of cyclists or walkers say they dislike the way they get to work in the morning. Those who had to drive to public transport were least satisfied.
In the UK this is a journey most people can do by foot or by bike, as the majority of us live just a mile or so away from major public transport connections.
In another study, this time from Sweden, the happiness and wellbeing of ‘active commuters’ was assessed against car users and those on public transport. Compared with those who walk or cycle, car commuters were found to be more likely to report poorer sleeping quality, everyday stress and have an elevated level of sickness absence. Public transport users didn’t report more sick days but they too felt more stress and poorer sleep quality than active commuters.
Results from plenty of other studies show entire city or regional populations that report less stress and greater mental wellbeing the more they use active modes to get to work, findings which remain true even when income levels, general health and attitudes to travel area all taken into account.
The report and statistical references can be found at Activate Your People
Businesses can also sign up to the Employers Network. It’s free to join, members are invited to two forums a year and have access to free resources to encourage people to walk and cycle to work – https://www.merseytravel.gov.uk/about-us/ourworkinMerseyside/Pages/Employer-Network.aspx