Quarter of adults fail to go for a walk or bike ride even once a month

People walking in a street

Sport England's annual Active Lives Survey asked 430 Ipswich residents between November 2019 and November 2020 how often they take a 10-minute walk, for either leisure or travel. - Credit: PA

People in Ipswich are still walking and cycling less than those living in more rural areas of the county, with activity rates falling during the pandemic.

Most areas in the county were slightly above average for active travel, when compared to the rest of England, but Ipswich lagged behind last year. 

Sport England's annual Active Lives Survey, published by the Department for Transport, shows just 71% walked at least once per month for any reason between November 2019 and November 2020.

The results are down from 76% the year before, which is the lowest figure since comparable records began in 2015-16.

The proportion of people who walked for leisure – for recreation, health, competition, or training – once per month rose from 56% to 62%.

But the same figure for walking to travel – such as commuting, visiting a friend, or going to the supermarket – fell significantly from 52% to 33%.

In Ipswich, 14% rode their bikes at least once every four weeks – compared to 18% the year before.

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Across England, the proportion of people who took a monthly stroll for any reason fell from 80% to 75% over this period – the lowest on record. In Suffolk,  this went from 80% to 77%.

Director at Active Suffolk, Gareth Davies, is hoping to change the discrepancies between Ipswich and the county as a whole and has launched an Active Wellbeing Service in the area.

Mr Davies added: "We hope to see a positive rise in physical activity levels however, it is hugely encouraging to note that as we start to recover from the impacts of Covid, Suffolk is taking the lead with returning to exercise, with the majority of local authorities exceeding the national average for those walking or cycling in the past 28 days.

"With an unequivocal link between increased fitness levels and improved mental and physical health and wellbeing, we encourage our communities to continue to return to the exercise that they enjoy, or seek some of the numerous physical activity opportunities in Suffolk to try something new."

Lisa O’Keefe, director of insight at Sport England, said the reduction "reflects the unprecedented pandemic disruptions of that time". 

She added: "Anxiety about going out and catching or spreading the virus, financial fears, more responsibilities at home and lack of access to private outdoor space all contributed."