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Strategy for an active community

Strategy for an active community to encourage more active travel

We spoke to Lisa Dodd -Mayne, Director of Sport & Active Communities at the University of Warwick to understand how the University’s active campus strategy can support the University in achieving its sustainability goals.

Tell us about Warwick Sport

“Of course! We are responsible for and manage all of the University’s sport and participation activities - we have a number of facilities which include Warwick’s Sports & Wellness Hub, Tennis Centre, Climbing Centre Westwood Games Hall, athletics track, Cryfield Pavilion and University sports pitches. We are also responsible for the sports pitch provision at our Wellesbourne campus along with our boathouse at Barford.

We run an active wellbeing programme which includes hundreds of classes, courses and sessions each week and are responsible for our student sport clubs of which we have 66. A few years ago we established an ambition to build the most active University campus community in the UK because we know that being active brings such significant benefits to health and wellbeing.

Our mission is to inspire, motivate and support staff, students and wider local communities to engage in living an active and healthy lifestyle, nudging them to be more active every day. As part of that our goal is to help people make healthier life and active travel choices to benefit both them and our wider society.”

Why is it important to be active?

“According to Sport England, being active when young helps our bodies develop properly, with a strong heart, healthy bones, muscles and brain development. As we get older, regular exercise reduces our risk of illness - from heart disease, stroke, colon and breast cancer to obesity and osteoporosis, among other conditions. Sport England say that every year, leading an active lifestyle prevents 900,000 cases of diabetes and 93,000 cases of dementia– a combined saving of £7.1 billion to the UK economy. Being active makes us happier, helps to build social connections and can help us to create healthier world around us.”

Have activity levels been affected by the pandemic?

“Being physically active has never had such prominence or value. Recently Sport England published their latest Active Lives Survey which covered the period around the pandemic between November 2019 and November 2020. The report gives an overview of physical activity levels in England and shows the impact of the first eight months of restrictions brought in to combat coronavirus.

It confirms what we already knew: the pandemic caused huge disruption and severely impacted people’s ability to engage with sport and physical activity. But there is also some really interesting information behind the numbers – which suggests that the story from last year could well have been much worse than it was. While there are now 710,000 fewer people meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines and taking part in 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week and 1.2 million more people classed as inactive for failing to meet even 30 minutes a week – the vast majority of people were able to adapt and stay active in lockdown.

In fact, a recent survey by BBC News and King's College London, conducted by Ipsos MORI, suggests virus regulations may have a lasting impact after Covid-19 with 40% of 2,200 people surveyed expecting walk more than they did before which is great news. Our goal here would be to help those who stopped being active to move once again and to help those who’ve discovered a love for walking, running or cycling to keep it up.”

What are active travel interventions and how do they relate to sustainability?

“As we think about returning to campus, there is the question of how we might return when we all go back to work or come back to study on site. The CBI and KPMG recently published a report which emphasised that employers should help employees to make greener journeys to and from work and create interventions that might encourage more sustainable travel choices. Active travel interventions, such as improving cycling routes, providing access to pay as you go bikes and even helping people to become more confident walkers, runners or cyclists have the potential to make the biggest impact on increasing and sustaining levels of physical activity, according to Sport England. At Warwick Sport, we can positively help people to go from couch to 10k, to hone their cycling skills and generally become fitter and healthier so they become more confident in choosing active travel as a viable alternative to car travel.” 

“For most people, the easiest and most acceptable forms of physical activity are those that can be incorporated into everyday life. Examples include walking or cycling instead of travelling by car, bus or train.” (Start Active, Stay Active 2011)

“Data from leading surveys shows the significant contribution that active travel is already making to overall physical activity levels of children and adults. There is clear consensus that active travel can make an even greater contribution to physical activity – through increasing both the amount and intensity of activity.”

Sport England’s Active Travel & Physical Activity Evidence Review (May 2019) shared some key statistics:

  • 37% (16.5m) of adults 16+ travel actively at least twice a month – that’s more than do any sporting activity at least twice a month (35%)
  • Walking for Travel is the 2nd most common physical activity in England – done by 33% (14.9 million adults) at least twice a month
  • Cycling for Travel is 7th – done by 6.8% (3.1m)