Watching the leaves turn green as Sheffield City Region blossoms into Spring, through sunshine, rain and everything in between, our one hour of exercise outside of the home has been our saviour throughout lockdown.
For many this has been in the form of a walk with members of our household, providing a welcome relief, or a solo walk as a chance to reflect and recharge. unLTD’s Bronte Saulle caught up with the team at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) to hear what they have been up to!
Without daily cycles to work and coordinated lunchtime office walks, Travel South Yorkshire’s Active and Sustainable Travel team have had a re-think about their individual and collective activity.
The team have been hosting a weekly walk since October 2018. Over 70 walks later, it all came to a sudden halt mid-March when group walks were stopped with immediate effect and working from home became the ‘new normal’.
Keen to keep up some activity and connectivity – away from the dreaded laptop or PC – Travel South Yorkshire’s Active and Sustainable Travel team have been meeting ‘virtually’ every Wednesday lunchtime to walk in their respective local areas.
The adapted format is a door-to-door 45-minute walk, whilst observing social distancing rules, as communication happens through video or audio call via a tablet or mobile device.
SYPTE marketing manager, Richard Pilgrim, explained: “Strange as it may sound, some people will be missing their daily commute. Among them will be those that typically walk or cycle to work as they are not able to clock up the same distances under the current restrictions.
“Adapting our usual Wednesday Health Walk has enabled us to meet on a virtual basis but do it outside of our ‘new’ office space. We’ve even been able to involve the team’s children in the walks to make them much more inclusive and fun.”
Travel South Yorkshire’s Active and Sustainable Travel team are now hoping to spread the word and help other workplaces to do the same.
Offering regular health walks can help introduce some physical activity into the working week, encourage colleagues to socialise in a way that can still be achieved in times of social distancing and over time can help to keep people fitter and healthier. Richard continued: “Setting up your own workplace virtual walk is easier than you think. We can help get you started and support you to set up your own walks. We have a team of qualified walk leaders who can scope out potential routes, help develop risk assessments and provide all the support and guidance you will need.
“And, the best part, we can offer this at no cost to your workplace.”
May is National Walking Month and also marks Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020) so it offers a great opportunity to celebrate the humble walk and encourage more people to discover the joys and benefits of walking.
This year, Travel South Yorkshire’s Active and Sustainable Travel team will be encouraging everyone to #Try20 – walk for 20 minutes every day as part of daily exercise.
Walking is a great way to improve physical and mental wellbeing, done individually or collectively. For instance, according to Public Health England, physical activity can reduce the risk of depression by up to 30 per cent. It can help people to think more creatively, improve mood and as a result decrease stress.
The UK’s chief medical officers recommend a minimum of 150 minutes exercise a week, yet around only one-third of adults in the UK are actually active enough. Broken down, 150 minutes is only 30 minutes a day, five days a week. On average, people spent about an hour a day travelling in 2017, but only 12 minutes of that time is spent walking.
Richard said: “Crucially, office workers are one of the most sedentary populations, spending 70-85 per cent of time at work sitting. It has been said that some office workers move less than people that have retired. Are we moving more now that we are working at home or less? And are employers asking the right questions about movement?
“People could easily break up exercise into manageable chunks and incorporate it into their working week and maybe some are finding more time to do this right now as they discover new walks in their local area.
“We need to ensure this isn’t a short-term change and workplaces support and enable them to do it in the future. For some it may be easier and others harder than ever right now, but it’s undeniable walking is the simplest, cheapest and safest form of exercise and the easiest way to walk more is to make walking a habit.”