It’s been proven that office workers get dangerously little exercise – and Travel South Yorkshire’s Active and Sustainable Travel Team are on a mission to change this. Sasha Mossman found out why taking time out for a walk everyday could be the most beneficial addition to your routine

Arguably the healthiest and most cost-effective way of getting some exercise, walking can easily fit into even the busiest worker’s daily routine. Although it can sometimes seem impossible to leave the desk behind, Travel South Yorkshire’s Active and Sustainable Travel Team are prepared to step in to help workforces set up and start walking.

The Active and Sustainable Travel Team are qualified ‘walk leaders’, who host regular health walks in order to help workplaces inject some activity into the working week and encourage colleagues to socialise – which over time helps staff to keep healthier and fitter.

The team, who set up the scheme back in October 2018, support businesses in setting up their own organised walks and also lead the popular ‘Wednesday Health Walk’ every Wednesday.

Marketing Manager Richard Pilgrim said “Setting up your own workplace walk is easier than you think – we have a team of qualified walk leaders provide all the support and guidance you will need.

“Our leaders are there to make sure everyone taking part is comfortable, safe and – most importantly – enjoying themselves. They can scope out potential routes, help develop risk assessments – and the best part is, we can offer this at no cost to your workplace.”

The weekly walks in and around the city centre are part of Step Out Sheffield – Walking for Health, which is the biggest volunteer-led walking for health scheme in the country and offers 60 weekly options across the city.

These depart every Wednesday at 12:30pm from SYPTE’s head office at 11 Broad Street West, and last 40 to 45 minutes on average – spanning a number of routes across the city. Booking isn’t necessary and anyone is welcome to join.

On average, workers spent about an hour a day travelling in 2017 but spent only 12 minutes of that time walking. Most worryingly, office workers see the highest levels of inactivity, spending 70-85 percent of time at work sitting.

Similarly, according to a survey by the Get Britain Standing campaign, the average UK office worker sits for 8.9 hours a day. This can lead to a whole host of health issues – including cardiovascular health problems, type 2 diabetes, weight gain and mental health problems.

However, setting aside time each day for some gentle exercise can reduce each of these risks significantly – even walking short distances daily can substantially boost fitness and mood levels.

Richard added: “One of the brilliant things about walking is that you can easily incorporate it into your daily routine, and it can quickly return some great results.

“Walking is a fantastic form of exercise. It costs absolutely nothing and gives you some amazing health benefits. It’s the ultimate form of zero emission transport, too!”

Led by Active Travel Commissioner for SCR Dame Sarah Storey, we find out walking is the way forward:

Dame Sarah Storey, Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region, says:

“As commissioner, I am committed to working with local authorities and other partners across South Yorkshire to help make our streets safer and more pleasant for people on foot. Walking is a fantastic way to incorporate activity in to the day and can help make us healthier and happier.

“To help improve walking experiences for people in the Sheffield City Region, I am asking those who travel on foot to share their thoughts with me on our Active Travel Interactive Map. Your comments will help us create a future network which is safe and accessible for all.”

Lorna Martin, a Service Information officer who has been taking part in the SYPTE-led walks since last January, says:

“Joining the Wednesday walk has become part of my routine and I’m much fitter for it. I enjoy not having to plan the routes myself, having a led walk means I can see different parts of the city but not have to spend time looking into routes that are achievable in the timeframe – that part is done for me.”

Emily Batty, a Traveline Supervisor, likes to book walking meetings with members of her team. She says:

“Getting fresh air means I feel more productive when I get back to my desk and the team feel the same way too. They look forward to their turn and the chance to step away from the phones.”