Summary of advice from NICE

The information in this section was copied from the Get Britain Cycling report:

Annex 1

Summary of advice from NICE, The National Institute for Health Care Excellence

Walking and cycling should become the norm for short journeys and should be encouraged throughout local communities says NICE, in new guidance published on 28 November2012. Local authorities, schools and workplaces should introduce ways to enable their communities to be more physically active and change their behaviours.

Regular physical activity is crucial to achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 50%i, and is also important for good mental health.

At present, we are not active enough as a nation -around two-thirds (61%) of men and nearly three-quarters (71%) of women aged 16 and over are not physically active enoughii.

Just over half of boys aged two to 10 years old and a third of girls in the same age group achieve the recommended level of daily physical activity. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (accounting for 6% of deaths globally)iii.

Walking is the most common recreational and sporting activity undertaken by adults in Britain, with cycling the fourth most commoniv. The majority (85.8%) of adults claim that they can ride a bicycle, yet the average time spent travelling on foot or by bicycle has decreased; from 12.9 minutes per day in 1995/97 to 11 minutes per day in 2007v.

Cycle use is lower in Britain than it is in other European Union countries; bicycles are used in around 2% of journeys in Britain compared with about 26% of journeys in the Netherlands, 19% in Denmark and 5% in Francevi.

This is the first time that NICE has published guidance for organisations and institutions, such as schools, workplaces and local authorities that have a responsibility or influence over local communities, to encourage them to promote physical activity specifically through walking and cycling.

NICE recommends coordinated action to identify and address the barriers that may be discouraging people from walking and cycling more often or at all. These include:

  • Implement town-wide programmes to promote cycling for both transport and recreational purposes. These could include cycle hire schemes, car-free events or days, providing information such as maps and route signing, activities and campaigns that emphasise the benefits of cycling, fun rides, and others.
  • Ensure walking routes are integrated with accessible public transport links to support longer journeys. Signage should give details of the distance and/or walking time, in both directions, between public transport facilities and key destinations.
  • Develop and implement school travel plans that encourage children to walk or cycle all or part of the way to school, including children with limited mobility. Pupils should be involved in the development and implementation of these plans.
  • Ensure walking and cycling are considered alongside other interventions, when working to achieve specific health outcomes in relation to the local population (such as a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes, or the promotion of mental wellbeing).


i. The guidance emphasises that encouraging and enabling people to walk or cycle requires action on many fronts, and from a range of different sectors. An integrated approach isneeded to achieve the potential public health benefits. The British Heart Foundation.

ii. Craig R, Mindell J, Hirani V (2009). Health survey for England 2008. London: The Health and Social Care Information Centre.

iii. Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (2011) Start active, stay active: a report on physical activity from the four home countries´ Chief Medical Officers.

iv. Swimming is the second most common recreational and sporting activity undertaken by adults in Britain, with keep-fit the third most common. Sport and leisure module of the 2002 General Household Survey.

v. Department for Transport, 2010.

vi. Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, The Netherlands, 2009

About the guidance

  1. The guidance is available on the NICE website.
  2. Although NICE public health guidance is not statutory, the NHS, local authorities and the wider public, private, voluntary and community sectors are expected to follow it.
  3. Adults (19-64 years) should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity over the week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Activities could include brisk walking or cycling. Older adults (65 years +) should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity in bouts of ten minutes or more. Children and young people (5-18 years) should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day. (Department of Health, July 2011). The full UK physical activity guideline scan be found on the DH website.

Leave a Reply