Research from Loughborough University’s Dr Emma Adams has shown that people are more likely to commute to work by walking if workplace environments include convenient walking routes, suitable pavements, maintained pavements or convenient public transport.

Developing pedestrian-friendly environments therefore may be an important factor in influencing people’s walking to work habits.

Commuter walking can constitute the whole journey to/from work, or be undertaken by combining walking with other modes of transport during the commute. Currently, in England, only 9-11% of adults walk for the commute to work. Promoting walking to work may therefore be one approach which could be used to increase physical activity levels in adults.

This study was based on data collected in the Walking Works intervention[1] which aimed to engage employers in promoting walking to work and walking during the working day. Using this data, the study aimed to assess whether there was an association between how people perceived the environment around their workplaces and whether they walked to work.

Just over half (52.1%) of study participants walked for part/all of their commute, spending on average 152 minutes walking to or from work in a week. The environmental factors associated with commuter walking were having convenient routes for walking, suitable pavements for walking and maintained pavements. Participants who reported there to be convenient public transport were almost five times more likely to walk for the daily commute.

This research can inform workplace practice by providing evidence to employers that developing pedestrian-friendly environments around new or existing workplaces will help promote walking for the commute. In addition, it is recommended that employers should educate employees with regard to the available walking routes in the surrounding areas.

The paper was published in the Journal of Transport & Health as part of a special issue on Built Environment, Transport and Health and was written in collaboration with Professor Fiona Bull (School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia) and Associate Professor Charlie Foster (British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, University of Oxford).

Read the full paper.

[1]The Walking Works intervention was managed and delivered by Living Streets as part of a portfolio of projects being delivered by a Consortium of the leading walking, cycling and health organisations in England and funded through the Big Lottery Fund’s Wellbeing Programme. The views expressed in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the study managers and funders.