Almost three in 10 Bedford adults walk less than once a month

People are more anxious about going out and catching or spreading the virus

By Patrick Jack
Monday, 27th September 2021, 4:17 pm

Almost three in 10 adults in Bedford took a short walk less than once a month last year, figures suggest, amid changes to people's travel habits during lockdown restrictions.

Sport England said a huge fall in walking for travel across England shows the "unprecedented" impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The organisation's annual Active Lives Survey asked 527 Bedford residents between November 2019 and November 2020 how often they take a 10-minute walk, for either leisure or travel.

People's travel habits changed during lockdown restrictions

The results, published by the Department for Transport, show just 72 per cent walked at least once per month for any reason – down from 77 per cent the year before.

This was the lowest figure since comparable records began in 2015-16.

The proportion of people who walked for leisure – for recreation, health, competition, or training – once per month rose slightly from 62 per cent to 64 per cent.

But the same figure for walking to travel – such as commuting, visiting a friend, or going to the supermarket – fell significantly from 46 per cent to 32 per cent.

Across England, the proportion of people who took a monthly stroll for any reason fell from 80 per cent to 75 per cent over this period – the lowest on record.

Just 36 per cent of adults walked at least once a month for travel, down significantly from 49 per cent a year before.

Lisa O’Keefe, director of insight at Sport England, said: “This reflects the unprecedented pandemic disruptions of that time.

"Anxiety about going out and catching or spreading the virus, financial fears, more responsibilities at home and lack of access to private outdoor space all contributed," she added.

Living Streets, a charity which supports everyday walking, said the pandemic has changed the way many of us live our lives, but it is important people build time to exercise into their new way of working.

Stephen Edwards, interim chief executive of the organisation, said: "It’s incredibly important that we keep active, both for our own wellbeing and to avoid storing up massive health problems for the NHS.

"Just a 20-minute walk can prevent long-term health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and depression."

Though the number of walking journeys across England fell last year, the charity Sustrans said it was encouraging that the number of miles cycled and walked per person in 2020 saw a boost from 259 to 308 on average.

The proportion of adults nationally who cycled at least once per month was unchanged from 16 per cent a year previously.

In Bedford, 17 per cent% rode their bikes at least once every four weeks – compared to 18 per cent the year before.

Rachel White, head of public affairs at Sustrans, called for local authorities to invest in quality infrastructure for everyday trips to make it easier for everyone to leave the car at home.

She added: "We are at a critical point where we can positively shape the new normal in Britain.

"We must enable people to use their cars less and travel actively more often, for the benefit of our own health and the future of the planet.”