Wheeling your way to wellness

No 1 Ranking World Impact Ratings SDG3 - Good Health and Wellbeing.

Professor Alistair Woodward is the wheeling embodiment of health and wellness. The head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Auckland practices both what he preaches - and researches - in the world of cycling. He cycles to the Tamaki campus from his central Auckland home and back again every day. He cycles to the shop. And he cycles for recreation, as well as doing a spin class once a week.

“The beauty of the bicycle is that you improve both your physical health and your mental wellbeing. And the thing that excites me is it builds physical activity into your regular routine.

“Not only that, it’s gentle on the environment,” Professor Woodward says.

This perfectly illustrates the University’s commitment to good health and wellbeing. That category ranked Number 1 in the recently-released Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Ratings, in which the University also rated Number 1 in the world overall. The new global ranking measures how well institutions are delivering on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Among his numerous publications on the subject that is so dear to his heart, Professor Woodward and his colleagues have noted that in statistical terms, cycling on the road is safer than many other recreational and everyday activities, including DIY, skiing, horse riding and DIY.

Furthermore, cyclists have been found to be the happiest commuters, he and his colleagues have found. There is, however, room for improvement. We still have a long way to go to make our cities less car-dependent and better suited for walking and cycling, he says.

It’s more than just the business of getting on your bike. “I think the bicycle is a wonderful machine because it’s so simple and you can do so much.”

And on a day like today, when the sun is shining and the harbour is sparkling and you’re making your way to work on two wheels: “it’s difficult to find a better place to be. You connect with the environment and you arrive at work feeling ready,” Professor Woodward says.

The work he is doing with colleagues on transport and health includes a number of projects on the bicycle - “a simple device with much to offer,” he says.

How can we use the bicycle to build better cities?

The Future of the Bike explores how we can leverage the power of the bicycle to address the emerging challenges of urbanisation. A collaborative venture between the University of Auckland, the University of Otago and transport consultancies Mackie Research and Dovetail Research, this project looks at how innovations in both bicycle technologies and city planning can improve urban sustainability in New Zealand.

Visit the Future of the bike website.