Sickness absence rates at UWIC drop as a result of adoption of green travel options

Sustrans Cymru has backed up yesterday’s report of a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that regular exercise can help combat the common cold, highlighting its own findings that sickness absence rates among staff and students at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) have fallen due to an increased uptake of active travel options.

UWIC has 10,000 students and 1,360 staff based at four campuses around the Welsh capital and has been actively promoting walking and cycling as well as public transport as ways to get around, with one result being a “significant” decline in sickness absence rates.

Stuart Scott, Chair of the Workplace Health and Well-being Promotion Group, said: “Over the past few years, UWIC staff have been encouraged to participate in a number of initiatives which promote green travel and healthy lifestyles. Since starting initiatives like the Bike and Walk to Work weeks in 2007, we have seen a significant reduction in sickness absence rates across the university, suggesting that the implementation of such initiatives can and is having a positive impact upon both the University and the staff that work within it.”

Since 1997, UWIC has rolled out a number of initiatives aimed at getting staff and students to use active travel options, such as travel planning, the introduction of local bus services serving campuses, launching the UWIC rider bus pass, a staff cycle purchase scheme, bike breakfasts, cycle safety sessions, bike pools and better facilities on campus for cycles.

Tomorrow, Sustrans Cymru will use UWIC as a case study at the Green Exercise conference at Cardiff’s City Hall in Cardiff, which will include a keynote presentation by Health Minister Edwina Hart. The event, which will also see academics discussing the benefits of green exercise, will also show that initiatives such as those undertaken at UWIC “are a cost-effective and pre-emptive approach to maintaining a healthy population in Wales.”

Georgina Harper , Sustrans Cymru’s Active Travel Programme Manager, commented: “Investment in walking and cycling is cost effective and is an investment in health, the environment, the population and the economy. Walking and cycling can be a natural choice for local travel and a way we can exercise as part of our everyday lifestyles, and UWIC is a great example of how helping people make simple changes to their everyday journeys can have much wider positive results.”

The conference has been organised by the Green Exercise Partnership, comprising three Welsh NGOs, BTCV, Groundwork Wales and led by Sustrans Cymru, and is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.