Quantifying the health and economic benefits of active commuting in Scotland

Graham Baker, Rebecca Pillinger, Paul Kelly, Bruce Whyte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite the substantial evidence base for the health and economic benefits of walking and cycling, there remains a lack of published findings on the levels and benefits of active commuting at a national level. This study aimed to quantify the proportion of active commuters who met a daily equivalent of weekly physical activity recommendations through their commuting journeys, and the economic value of health benefits associated with active commuting in Scotland.

Methods: A repeat cross-sectional analysis of the 2001 and 2011 waves of the Scottish Census was conducted. We analysed data from approximately 250,000 respondents aged 16-74 at each time-point who selected walking or cycling for their usual journey to work. A count was taken of walkers and cyclists whose daily commuting time was at least 30 minutes. The Health Economic Assessment Tool was used to estimate the number of deaths averted by active commuting, and the associated economic value of walking and cycling annually and over a 10-year period. 

Results: Active modes of commuting accounted for a modal share of 13.5% (n=244,009) in 2001, and 14.5% (n=286,145) in 2011. In 2001, 46.5% of all active commuters met a daily target of 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity rising to 50.2% in 2011. In Scotland, the annual health economic benefit of commuting to work by walking was estimated to be approximately EUR 700.2 million, and EUR 79.8 million for cycling to work.

Conclusion: This study provides clear evidence of the substantial health and economic benefits that active commuting makes at a population level. These findings support the case for further investment to increase levels of walking and cycling.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101111
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Transport and Health
Early online date20 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • walking
  • cycling
  • active commuting
  • HEAT
  • economic
  • health


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