GPs to offer walking, wheeling and cycling on prescription in new trial to improve mental and physical health

GPs in 11 local authority areas are set to offer social prescriptions, including walking, wheeling and cycling, as part of a new trial to improve mental and physical health and reduce disparities across the country.

The Government has awarded £12.7 million in multi-year funding to 11 local authority areas in England. The funding will go towards several pilot projects in each location, including adult cycle training, free bike loans and walking groups.

Other schemes include all-ability cycling taster days, where people who may not have cycled before can try in a friendly environment, or walking and cycling mental health groups where people can connect with their communities as they get active.

Walking and cycling minister Trudy Harrison said:  ”Walking and cycling has so many benefits – from improving air quality in our communities to reducing congestion on our busiest streets.

“It also has an enormous positive impact on physical and mental health, which is why we have funded these projects which will get people across the country moving and ease the burden on our NHS.”

The 11 local authority areas that will trial social prescriptions are Bath and North East Somerset, Bradford, Cornwall, Cumbria, Doncaster, Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Suffolk and Staffordshire. The pilots must be delivered alongside improved infrastructure.

National active travel commissioner Chris Boardman said: “As a nation we need healthier, cheaper and more pleasant ways to get around for everyday trips. Active Travel England’s mission is to ensure millions of people nationwide can do just that – so it’s easier to leave the car at home and to enjoy the benefits that come with it.

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“Moving more will lead to a healthier nation, a reduced burden on the NHS, less cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as huge cost savings. This trial aims to build on existing evidence to show how bringing transport, active travel and health together can make a positive impact on communities across England.”

The pilots will be delivered between 2022 and 2025 with ongoing monitoring and evaluation to support continued learning.

Adrian Warren, senior product director at Cyclescheme, Blackhawk Network, said: “With GPs now encouraging individuals to increase their daily physical activities, cycling to work offers the ideal solution for many to routinely fit in exercise.

“However, it can’t go unmentioned that owning a bike is not always a possibility for individuals, especially with the current economic climate. It is here that employers can play a crucial role. Offering employees payroll benefit programmes like Cyclescheme will ease staffs’ financial worries, whilst also encouraging them to get on their bikes and fit in their exercise.

“In fact, employees can save on average almost £750 a year on traveling to work when they opt to cycle – which rises to £1,400 for those in Greater London. Taking action to help employees in improving their health, in a way that also supports them financially, will boost engagement, mental health and physical wellbeing.”

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