It’s certainly been a weird year, but some trends to come out of Covid isolation are good for our health and the planet.

Now that the restrictions are finally lifting, we’re beginning to see the subtle ways the pandemic has changed us – and some of them for the better.

From cycling to shopping, here are some of our new national habits we hope will stick around.


Research suggests cycling has increased by more than 35% in London and by nearly 50% in the south-east.

A combination of quieter streets during the pandemic and people searching for Covid-safe ways to travel as well as wanting more exercise, have all contributed to a surge.

Strava points to a particular spike in female cyclists using its exercise app in the past year.

Sales of bicycles were up by 60% between March and October 2020, according to the Bicycle Association.

Sports megastore Decathlon saw online sales of its bikes rise by more than 200% in May 2020, while sales of bike parts and components rose five-fold, as people scrambled to fix up their old bicycles.

‘It’s the biggest increase we’ve ever had,’ confirms Peter Lazarus, Decathlon’s head of cycling.

This year Cycling UK is focusing on the mental health and wellbeing improvements that cycling brings – lowering your risk of developing cancer by 45% and of cardiovascular disease by 46%.

Ted Gomm was suffering from extreme anxiety and barely left his house until he found cycling.

‘I was cycling down the canal path and found I was actually enjoying the ride and feeling pleasure for the first time in over 18 months,’ he says.

‘This change in my thinking was so dramatic, I immediately felt there was hope and I haven’t looked back since.’

Now that we’re heading back to offices and hybrid working, sales of electric bikes are rocketing – they’re up by 92% year on year, according to the Bicycle Association.

A rise in cycling could make a huge difference to traffic pollution – road cycling was at its highest level since the 1960s in 2020, according to the Department for Transport.

YOU CAN: Download Strava, which gives you straightforward ride stats including distance and speed but also calories burned and elevation ridden.

Komoot shows riders the best routes for mountain bikes versus road bikes, their level of fitness and styles of riding. More than 10 million users worldwide share their routes.


Hands up if you began obsessing about how many steps you’d managed each day, or even bought an Apple Watch or Fitbit to keep track of your running and walking.

Walking became a national hobby, and parks and footpaths had never been so busy, with Strava showing that in February 2021 there were 6.3 times more walkers in London and the south-east compared to the same time the year before.

‘There’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety but that one bit of certainty can be that hour you get outside, doing some exercise,’ says Simon Klima from Strava.

‘I think people take a lot of positivity out of that.’

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get fit. It increases lung capacity and reduces blood pressure, and it’s also good for mental health. Just being outside in nature has benefits, not to mention providing a boost of vitamin D.

YOU CAN: Join The Ramblers Association to find routes and groups. Its Walk Your Way campaign has loads of free downloadable walks and ideas to encourage people to get out more.

The big shop

When Boris Johnson announced that we should only go out for food once a week, the weekly ritual of planning what we’d eat and making a list became almost enjoyable.

I’m using less fuel driving to the shops and wasting less food.

Indeed, Research by WRAP showed that our changed behaviour led to a sharp decrease in food waste, which went down from 24.1% in November 2019 to 13.7% in April 2020 – a fall of 43%.

YOU CAN: Walk to your local shops to support them, buying only what you need.

Try meal planning with free apps such as Yummly, which allows you to store recipes and add to a shopping list or The Smart Recipes app, which is part of NHS’s Change4Life.

This also has a shopping list but you can filter the list by shopping aisle to save you time if you’re popping to the shops.

Buying less stuff

Non-essential shops were shut almost as much as they were open last year, and sales of clothes plummeted by 43.5% between April and June, compared with 2019.

Which means millions of tons less clothes waste going to landfill in the form of fast fashion bought and binned.

This can only be good news for the planet because in the UK we are buying more clothes than ever – on average each person buys 60% more clothing than they did 15 years ago. That’s a lot more waste.

YOU CAN: Check out pre-loved sites such as Depop as well as retro sites such as vintage store @beyondretro.


With nowhere to go, many of us turned to our gardens for solace last year.

By the end of March 2020, Suttons Seeds’ daily sales were 20 times higher than they had been in 2019, as people clamoured to grow lettuce, beetroot and coriander on their windowsills and patios.

The Mental Health Review Journal cited gardening as being able to reduce stress and improve mood, with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Growing your own, pesticide-free food, with zero food miles involved, is so good for the planet, while it also creates space for wildlife, bees and butterflies – gardening is just about one of the best lockdown trends all-round.

YOU CAN: Try one of the new gardening subscription sites such as British Seed Subscription, which delivers British-grown wildflower seeds once a month.

Alternatively, if space is limited, sign up to Pot Gang, which delivers simple instructions and seasonal seedlings, pots and soil to your door.

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