Our physical environment can have a significant impact on our health. It influences what we do, the way we move, and how we engage with people and places.
The places where we live can be places that support our wellbeing, or they can contribute towards a range of issues such as inactivity, obesity, poor air quality and poor mental health. By creating healthy places: making it easier for people to walk and cycle, by better design and by using the built and natural environments, we can help people to move more and improve their health and wellbeing.
Our work related to active environments is closely linked to Explore Kent, our sister service. Explore Kent, with its focus on encouraging active, outdoor lifestyles and use of the county’s network of public rights of way, green and blue spaces, is an ideal vehicle for promoting active travel, active design, connecting with nature and working to address the climate emergency.
We want to encourage walking and cycling as an alternative way to travel short distances – like walking to the shops, walking the kids to school, cycling to work, or cycling to the station to catch a train. Active travel encourages people to move more as part of their everyday lives but also helps improve air quality and supports work to reduce carbon production.
We work with partners in transport and the community to promote active travel, producing active travel guides and campaigns:
Hear how Madhu and Ruth take on their first adult cycle training session and find themselves enjoying the experience and gaining a huge confidence boost!
Connecting with Nature
Covid-19 has highlighted that green and blue spaces are very much needed for physical and mental wellbeing. When it comes to the physical and mental health benefits, nature has a very wide definition. It can mean green spaces such as parks, woodland, or forests as well as blue spaces like rivers, wetlands, beaches or canals. It also includes trees on an urban street, private gardens, verges and even indoor plants or window boxes.
The evidence is clear that being active in nature has significant benefit. People’s connection with nature is also associated with lower levels of poor mental health, including depression and anxiety.
Working with a wide range of partners including Public Rights of Way, Country Parks, Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Countryside Management Partnerships, Kent Wildlife Trust, alongside Explore Kent and via our Everyday Active campaign, we are working to help more people to be active outdoors and connect with nature to improve their health and wellbeing.
Here’s an example of our green social prescribing work with Kent Wildlife Trust:
Active Design brings together the planning and considerations that should be made when designing the places and spaces we live in. It’s about designing and adapting where we live to encourage activity in our everyday lives, making the active choice the easy choice.
Working with planning and design colleagues, we want to help shape existing and future developments, by embedding physical activity into planning policy.
We recognise the impact that good design has on shaping streets and public spaces as places for activity and are working to advocate active design and healthy streets principals.