Cumbrian GPs prescribe 'walking and cycling' to improve health

People enjoying a walk in the Lake District, Cumbria. Credit: PA Images

People in the North East and Cumbria could be prescribed walking or cycling by their GP in a new trial to improve mental and physical health.

£12.7 million of government funding will go towards 11 pilot areas in England.

GPs will be able to offer social prescriptions, like walking groups, cycle training and free bike loans.

Cumbria County Council will receive £1.5 million for schemes including cycle hire and loans, group cycle rides, and adult cycle training.

Gateshead Council will receive over £270,000 for schemes including an older people cycle programme, adult cycle training and walking support, and an older people walking programme.

The scheme hopes that it will improve the mental and physical health of people in the region. Credit: PA

The pilot is part of the Gear Change Plan published by the government in 2020.

It aims to evaluate the impact of cycling and walking on an individual's health, such as reduced GP appointments and reliance on medication due to more physical activity.

  • Video report by Andrew Misra

For the first time, transport, active travel and health officials will work together towards a whole systems approach to health improvement and tackling health disparities.

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."

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.

"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 eleven local authority areas that will have these trials are:

  • Bath and North East Somerset

  • Bradford

  • Cornwall

  • Cumbria

  • Doncaster

  • Gateshead

  • Leeds

  • Nottingham

  • Plymouth

  • Suffolk

  • Staffordshire

The pilots will be delivered between 2022 and 2025.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know: