Walking to work or school
Walking is a great way to find out more about an area, improve your fitness, protect the environment and save money.
Discover the benefits
To keep your heart healthy, ideally you should aim to use 2,000 Kcal a week through physical activity.
Your activity calories are accumulated throughout a week so every bit helps. Walking part or all of the way to work even once or twice a week can make a real difference to your health.
People who walk have reported:
- higher energy levels
- higher stamina levels
- reduced stress levels
- decreased levels of illness
- improved feeling of well being
Walking helps to:
- prevent osteoporosis
- reduce the risk of heart disease
- reduce the risk of certain cancers
Walking supports the environment by:
- having no adverse effects on the environment
- offering an alternative to car use - walking is sometimes ignored because public transport or cycling are more commonly encouraged
- cutting down on traffic congestion and pollution
- reducing road maintenance and car parking, if more people walked to work
So, if you're looking for a way to get to or from work then walking is the answer, it:
- is totally adaptable to your own timetable
- has no waiting in traffic jams
- is flexible with no waiting for buses
- supports the environment
- allows time to look around and notice the changing seasons in the gardens along the way
- is free
For more information on walking and its benefits, contact the Public Health Agency.
Below are two maps that show Belfast city centre and Londonderry city centre. These illustrate the time it would take to get to parts of each city on foot.
- Belfast City Centre - Walking Map (PDF 1.09 MB)
- Londonderry City Centre - Walking Map (PDF 1.29 MB)
- Help with PDF files
Walking to work
Walking has big health benefits - it's easy on joints, it's good for the heart and mind and the only equipment you need is a pair of shoes.
Recent research shows that the air quality is poorer inside the car than out of it when driving in heavy traffic. In fact, car users suffer up to three times as much pollution as pedestrians.
The Regional Development Strategy 2025 aims to provide safe and environmentally attractive walking facilities in Northern Ireland.
This includes the development of a walking action plan for Northern Ireland to create more direct, safer, pedestrian friendly routes, particularly in and around town centres, traditional shopping streets, and local neighbourhoods, and improve pedestrian facilities on routes to bus stops, bus and rail stations.
The walking action plan aims to increase awareness of how accessible walking is and to highlight associated health benefits.
There are a few simple rules for walkers that can keep you safe. You can find out more from The Highway Code, which contains rules for pedestrians.
There's also detailed information on road safety on the children's Think! Road Safety website,which explains the Green Cross Code.
- 'The Highway Code' - pedestrians
- Think! Road Safety website
- Road safety education (Department of the Environment website)
Finding the time
If you live in or near the countryside, you may have plenty of opportunities for walking. In a town, such opportunities may be limited and you may need to make more of an effort to find the time to walk.
Wherever you live, try to build walking into your normal everyday routine. For example, you could:
- go for a walk at lunchtime - this can give you an energy boost for the afternoon
- walk to school instead of driving
- get off the bus a stop earlier than usual
- walk to the newsagent or post office instead of using the car
- walk up flights of stairs, rather than use a lift
Walking to school
Walking to school improves children's health and allows them to travel independently - but their safety and security is paramount.
For children who do not want, or who are not ready, to walk to school unaccompanied, there are a number of alternatives. The Walking Bus scheme, for example, enables children to walk to school in safe, supervised groups.
If it is too far to walk, your child may be eligible for free transport to school. The education and learning section of this site has more details of free transport schemes for school children.
Walk to School campaign
The Walk to School Campaign encourages pupils to walk to school more often. The campaign, which is supported by the Department for Regional Development (Travelwise NI), includes the popular Walk Once a Week or Wheels on Wednesday (WOW) initiative, which helps to promote regular walking among pupils.
Children, parents, school teachers and community leaders can also take part in Walk to School Week, usually held in May, and International Walk to School Month, which is in October each year. These are great opportunities to get involved in events that promote the many benefits of walking.
The Walking Bus concept is a new, safe, healthy and environmentally friendly approach to walking large groups of children to and from school.
Each walking bus has an adult 'driver' at the front and an adult 'conductor' at the rear. The children walk to school in a group along a set route picking up additional 'passengers' at specific 'bus stops' along the way. The bus runs in all weather conditions and everyone wears a reflective jacket.
Each walking bus is different, as they are developed to suit the needs of children and their parents. Some schools have a number of walking buses, whereas others only have one. Some walking buses operate only on certain days, while others operate only in the morning or afternoon.
Benefits of the walking bus:
- good for children - a walking bus is a safe way for children to walk to school, allowing children to have regular daily exercise and reinforcing the habit of walking for shorter journeys
- good for the environment with less congestion and traffic, which means less pollution
- good for you - an opportunity for you to have social contact with other parents, physical exercise and the feeling of well-being knowing that you're doing something worthwhile
Remember to arrange insurance cover before starting a walking bus. Your school should be able to advise on this. Why not set up a walking bus at your school?