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Motivation gets you started, habit keeps you going when it comes to active travel

Swapping the car with walking, wheeling or cycling for short journeys can be a great way to fit some activity into a busy work and family schedule. In this blog post, Kirsty Rankin, Paths for All's Walking for Health Manager, describes what motivates her and her family to travel more actively and how they have made it an important part of their daily routine.

Published: 07/06/2022

A woman with shoulder length hair walking through a park with a group of three school children on scooters and a bike

I read a quote recently which resonated with me, ‘Motivation gets you started. Habit keeps you going’. This reflects my personal experience with traveling more actively for everyday journeys. I have found small changes have quickly become habit and have really impacted on my life and that of my busy wee family.

Motivation gets you started…

As a working parent, I struggle to get it all done! We’re all busy and while we dream of getting through our to do list and having some ‘me time’ to exercise, it’s difficult to get the balance. Swapping short car journeys to walking or cycling was a game changer, as I quickly found that a 10 minute walk to the shops, or a walk or cycle with the kids to school, when I could, soon added up to 100s of minutes of exercise a week on trips that I would be doing anyway.    

That is because as a nation, most of our car journeys are relatively short, over 34% of journeys under 1km are made by car (either as a driver or a passenger) and over 50% are under 2km. Walking 1km takes around 10-13 minutes, and you can cycle it in five. Living in a city, I often find walking, cycling or getting the bus quicker and more reliable than sitting in endless traffic jams getting stressed out.

Without realising, you can seriously improve your health and wellbeing. The Chief Medical Officer recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week to improve your health and reduce your risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes. 

For my family it is about how it makes us feel each day, giving us a boost of energy and wellbeing from being out and about, moving in the fresh air. On the days I can walk the kids to school, it’s a great opportunity to talk without digital distractions, and we often meet others doing the same route and have made friends and connections within our community.

I enjoyed reading Gemma Ryde’s blog about the impact of the Step Count Challenge on productivity and stress. Active and sustainable travel can be a great way to introduce activity into your work day to boost mental wellbeing. An old colleague of mine called her walk or cycle home from work her ‘cactus time’, when she clears her head and looses her prickles from the day. I love this!

With the cost of living crisis a concern for everyone, filling up the car is a significant expense that we, as a family are trying to reduce. Leaving the car for our short journeys is certainly making a big difference to how often we need to buy petrol.   

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the climate crisis. As Transport is now the biggest source of emissions (around a third) and with car journeys a significant proportion of this, cutting down on the amount that we use the car is a strong motivator for us, as a way we can play our part. 

Habit keeps you going…

Take one step at a time and be kind to yourself. Start by considering some of the short journeys that you make by car and consider doing it walking, wheeling or cycling.

An active commute or journey can take all shapes and sizes, a walk or wheel to the bus stop is more active than a car journey and small amounts of activity soon add up. Monitoring your activity through the Step Count Challenge is a great way to see it grow and develop into habits.

Develop a podcast addiction, a 15 minute walk or wheel is a great opportunity to get into a good podcast. There are so many to choose from, I would highly recommend Voices of the Walk (obviously!).  Beware of the comedies, as walking past people in the street and bursting out laughing at a joke you’re listening to is awkward!

Be prepared. Plan your journey. 

  • You don’t need much if you’re walking, just a comfy pair of shoes, though, living in Scotland, it always wise to take a rain coat and sunglasses just in case!
  • If you’re planning to cycle, you can find lots of advice from Sustrans including hints and tips for beginners and route planning. 
  • If you’re planning a trip by public transport, you can access travel information at

Find your tribe! It’s easier to do it with others. Help develop a culture of active and sustainable travel in your workplace. There’s lot of support for Scottish workplaces and you can find it all at Way to Work, a one-stop shop for active and sustainable travel information.  This site supports employers and employees to find funding and training opportunities, inspiring case studies, accreditations and motivational challenges, expert advice, the latest news and events, as well as a wealth of resources.