Cities that encourage physical activity have a clear economic advantage according new research from the University of California.

The Active Cities report, created by Nike in partnership with academics, non-profit organisations and built-environment specialists, also identified nine cities from around the world that have successfully embedded physical activity into their core strategies, including Bristol.

The report reveals that cities with physically active populations are not only more economically competitive – they also benefit from increased productivity, improved school performance, higher property values, and improved health and wellbeing.

The reports key finding are:

Making cities better for walking can boost footfall and trading in the local area by up to 40%. Projects encouraging walking in the UK were shown to increase employment and the number of visitors by as much as 300%.

Studies on the economic benefits of walking and cycling interventions revealed an average return of £13 on every £1 invested. In the UK, the return is as high as £19 for every £1 invested.

The report provides advice, tools and resources to create more physically active populations, including 10 quick wins for city leaders who want to transform their cities. For example, turning the lights on and keeping parks and sports courts open late, opening up school sports fields to the public and allowing people to apply for street-closing permits for neighbourhood play events are all low-cost ways to increase physical activity.

Chad Spoon, part of the research team at Active Living Research, University of California, said: ‘We hope this research will open the eyes of government leaders to the many important benefits of designing cities to support active living. This includes economic benefits such as increased home value, greater retail activity, reduced health care costs, and improved productivity.

‘A city’s ability to compete depends on an active population. The research is clear on this – it shows how an active city can be a low-cost, high-return investment.’

Commenting on the research Will Herman of leisure PR specialists Pelican Communications outdoor team said: ‘Most reports have looked at the health benefits of outdoor activities or the economic benefits to rural communities. This report makes refreshing reading as it highlights the vital role walking and cycling have in creating successful cities. I hope it will help influence the thinking of local and national politicians.’

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