Physical activity

Reviewed: 01/02/2023

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Regular physical activity provides a range of physical and mental health benefits. These include reducing the risk of disease, managing existing conditions, and developing and maintaining physical and mental function. The UK Chief Medical Officers' guidelines provide recommendations on the frequency, intensity, duration and types of physical activity at different life stages, from early to later years. It is never too late to start being active. There is no minimum threshold for activity to achieve health benefits. In general the more time spent being physically active, the greater the health benefits, but the gains per extra active minute are especially great for those currently least active (fewer than 30 active minutes per week).

The experience of other countries tells us that getting the whole nation active every day will only happen if we involve all sectors. We need to embed physical activity into the fabric of daily life, making it an easy, cost-effective and ‘normal’ choice in every community in England.

Infographic from All our health

Physical activity infograph


The Bolton picture

Further useful links

Active travel

Also see Bolton JSNA - climate emergency

Active travel is people powered travel - such as walking, cycling, scooting or wheeling. Making more of our everyday journeys by active means is a particularly good way of incorporating physical activity into busy lives. This could be by cycling the whole way rather than driving, or by walking to and from the train station or bus stop. E-cycles are a form of active travel as the e-assist cuts out at speeds above 25 kmph/ 15.5 mph and is only active while pedalling. E-cycles may be particularly suitable for carrying cargo, for use in hilly areas, or for use by people less confident in their physical fitness.

Micromobility encompasses active travel plus non-people powered small vehicles such as e-scooters, mobility scooters, and hoverboards. These modes may have environmental, financial and accessibility benefits particualrly if their use replaces journeys made by private car, but they will not have the physical activity benefits of active travel. Cycle infrastructure can support the use of wider forms of micromobility. 

According to the latest (2022) GM TRADS data for Bolton, 74% of Bolton residents' journeys are no more than 5 km/ 3 mi (up to 20 mins to cycle at a moderate 15 kmph/ 9 mph): 38% of these are currently made by walking/ cycling, and 55% by car/ van. 47% of Bolton residents' journeys are no more than 2 km/ 1mi; (up to 25 mins to walk at 5 kmph/ 3 mph, or 10 mins to cycle): 55% are currently made by walking/ cycling, and 41% by car/ van.

The GM walking and cycling index 2023, which included Bolton residents, found that 59% of Greater Manchester residents thought the level of safety for walking/ wheeling in their local area was good (46% thought it was good for children). Perceptions of safety when cycling were lower, at 35% (28% thought it was good for children). The report notes that safety, including road safety and personal safety, is the single largest barrier to cycling. Disabled people, women, and older people tended to feel their area was less safe for walking, wheeling, and cycling; and people from non-White ethnic groups for walking/ wheeling. 24% of residents want to drive less, yet 38% of residents often use a car because no other transport options are available. Across Greater Manchester, 14% of junctions with vehicle traffic lights have no pedestrian phase

Residents want better streets. 55% supported shifting investment from road building schemes to fund walking, wheeling, cycling and public transport, with only 17% opposing this move. The report highlights a range of measures that residents supported for enabling them to to get about actively, and making their local streets and high sreets nicer places for spending time in.

The Bolton picture

Other useful links

  • Also see resources in the general physical activity section above
  • GM's active travel public health manifesto
  • GM streets for all strategy - TfGM's plan to design more welcoming and greener streets - which enable people to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives; clean air; which are safe and secure for everyone; which provide good access to public transport and which are accessible for those with mobility impairments
  • Greater Manchester streets for all design guide - an inclusive approach to street design. This document is for use in on highway, public realm, and other schemes as appropriate and sets out the approach, design requirements and infrastructure options to achieve streets that are: universally accessibly, pleasant, safe and welcoming places for anyone and everyone; and an inclusive environment that both reflects, and best facilitates, the particular street’s balance of roles and functions
  • Perceptions of personal safety and experiences of harassment - from ONS. People felt less safe walking alone in all settings after dark than during the day; with women feeling less safe than men in all settings after dark. Disabled people felt less safe in all settings than non-disabled people. Parks and other open spaces showed the biggest difference between daytime and after dark, with 82% of women feeling unsafe after dark in this setting vs 42% of men.
  • Tackling the gender 'pedal gap' - 2023 report from Lime and Opinium on addressing women's night safety
  • Gear change - cycling & walking plan for England
  • GM Active travel design guide - outlines quality standards that must be followed for GM active bee Network schemes
  • Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20 - guidance for local authorities on designing high quality, safe cycle infrastructure which is accessible for users of non-standard cycles
  • Statutory guidance - network management to support active travel - this guidance sets out the range of measures councils may consider in fulfilling their requirement to reallocate road space to walking and cycling, together with monitoring and evaluation approaches for these measures. Now withdrawn but still contains useful information.
  • Pedestrian slips, trips and falls - evaluation of their causes, impact, scale and cost from Living Streets
  • National travel attitudes survey
  • Walking and cycling speeds