By Angela Squires, Business Engagement Officer, Public Health Team, Southend Borough Council:
April is Stress Awareness Month- a campaign which has run annually since 1992- with World Health Day on the 7th.
The New Economics Foundation’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing is a set of evidence-based actions to improve personal wellbeing, suggesting we try to: Connect, Be Active, Learn, and Give and Take notice. How would building sustainable transport into your commute contribute to this?
I personally commuted for 30 years from London in previous jobs and made the conscious decision to swap my daily road rage and stress (before I’d even gotten on the train) for fresh air and time to think. How did I do this? I replaced driving to the station with cycling.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer recommends adults aim to take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, since inactivity is a major public health issue; 29.5% of Southend’s population is currently inactive. Walking and cycling for all or part of your commute is an accessible physical activity which significantly increases weekly physical activity levels. Across a town of 150,000 people, if everyone walked an extra 10 minutes a day, estimates suggest 31 lives per year would be saved by reducing long-term health issues. Increasing physical activity improves heart health, can help with weight maintenance, and improve mental wellbeing.
Below are two case studies from members of our team who have changed their travel habits and are enjoying the benefits as a result:
Case Study Examples:
Lee, Public Health Southend – “I used to cycle a lot as a child but as soon as I left school and went to college I stopped. Motorcycles and cars became my new mode of transport. I started cycling to work in November 2014: not the best weather to be starting and I found it really hard at first. However, after a few weeks it got much easier. Safe cycle storage gave me the confidence to get a better bike, knowing it would be safe during the day, and the on-site showers are a god send, since I am cycling almost 10 miles each way I have to shower when I get in.
In the summer it’s brilliant – feel good, sun tan etc – but in the winter it can be hard, although it helps to think I am saving money and saving time (it’s just as quick to get to work by bike and I don’t have to go to the gym!) If for whatever reason I don’t come in by bike I notice it takes me a while to get going once I am in the office and I feel more exposed to stressful situations. My top tip is: get good panniers for the bike – mine come off as one and are easy to carry to and from the office.”
Simon, Public Health Southend – “I’ve been taking the train to work for four years, partly because I wanted to use the car less, but mostly because I wanted a more relaxed journey. I was fed up with sitting in traffic jams and not being able to find a parking space at the end of my journey.
Yes, waiting for a train can be cold and sometimes wet but it also allows me to read a book or on betters days enjoy the sunshine. I like to get into work early with the short walk to the office offering me the time to start my day feeling calm and ready to go. After work I often walk to the gym to push some weights or get on a treadmill; I find this a good way to take some time out and focus on me. I then have a choice: walk home or get the train. I like to mix up my week and do both! Walking home along the seafront is a real pleasure whatever the weather.
Actively commuting is helping to keep me fit, healthy and stress free. My day ends with a good night’s sleep before waking up and starting all over again!”
So why not consider adding walking and/or cycling as commuting options this April? For help and support with making healthy lifestyle changes, contact ACE Lifestyle Southend on: 0800 0224524, visit www.acelifestyle.org