The ‘Little Big Changes’ campaign aims to highlight the benefits of active travel – making journeys by more physically active means - and encourage people across the region to ditch the car and get walking or cycling for all or part of their journeys.
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “Travelling on foot or by bike has a range of benefits. Active travel leads to cleaner air; improved physical and mental health; can save people money and reduces the pressures on our vital public services – not least our NHS.
“That’s why I’m leading the Little Big Changes campaign. At a time when people increasingly find it difficult to fit exercise into their daily routine, I believe that small changes in the way we travel can make a real impact on our health.
“And the time to act is now. As the summer holidays are over and it’s time to go back to work and school, it’s an ideal time to start incorporating physical activity into the daily commute. Teaching children that it is good to walk, or ride a bike or a scooter to school, will help them to achieve a more active lifestyle – and hopefully they will carry these habits into the future, making a cleaner, healthier and fitter South Yorkshire for us all.”
The benefits of active travel to health and wellbeing, as well as the environment and the bank balance, are well known. Walking as part of a return bus trip can provide half of a person’s recommended daily exercise, for example. SCR and SYPTE also want the campaign to highlight some of the health and wellbeing benefits of active travel.
Evidence shows that the benefits of making a ‘Little Big Change’ are numerous and long lasting. Just 20 minutes’ walking a day is enough to reduce long-term health risks associated with inactivity, and a person who is active every day reduces their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 20 to 35 per cent, and depression by 20 to 30 per cent.
The Little Big Changes campaign is part of Mayor Jarvis’ wider commitment to active travel.
He will be working with Professor Steve Haake, from Sheffield Hallam University's world-leading Advanced Wellness Research Centre (AWRC), to review active travel strategies from around the world and use these examples to inform decision-making here in the Sheffield City Region.
The Mayor will also host a summit to discuss plans and gather views from academics, policy experts, sustainable transport groups, local residents and other stakeholders; as well as ensuring that any devolved Transforming Cities Fund resources include a focus on the promotion of active travel.
At the heart of this will be an Active Travel Commissioner who will lead this work; similar to the role of Olympic gold medal cyclist Chris Boardman in Greater Manchester.
Mayor Jarvis added: “Building on the strong foundations of our sports heritage and world-leading physical activity research at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, we will create a place where all of us are fitter, healthier and more active.”
To support the Little Big Changes campaign, SYPTE’s employees are making pledges to include some physical activity in their daily lives and will be encouraging local community groups to get involved by pledging to make a ‘Little Big Change’ as a group.
More information on the benefits of active travel and how to get involved can be found at travelsouthyorkshire.com/activetravel