Cycling is good exercise and it's easy to fit into the daily routiine. If more people took it up, it could help ward off the health crises facing the NHS...
Cycling is excellent exercise. It helps people meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, improves their physical and mental health and their well-being, while reducing the risk of premature death and ill-health.
Cycling is far more likely to benefit an individual’s health than damage it; and the more cyclists there are, the safer cycling becomes – the ‘safety in numbers’ effect.
Cycling fits into daily routines better than many other forms of exercise, because it doubles up as transport to work, school or the shops etc. It’s easier than finding extra time to visit the gym and far less costly.
Lack of exercise can make people ill. It can lead to obesity, coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, cancers, type 2 diabetes and other life-threatening conditions.
Unlike driving, cycling causes negligible harm to others, either through road injuries or pollution, so it’s a healthy option not just for cyclists, but for everyone else too.
People who cycle regularly in mid-adulthood typically enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to someone 10 years younger and their life expectancy is two years above the average.
On average, regular cycle commuters take more than one day per year less off sick than colleagues who do not cycle to work, saving UK businesses around £83m annually. Also, people who do not cycle-commute regularly have a 39% higher mortality rate than those who do.
The health benefits of cycling outweigh the injury risks by between 13:1 and 415:1, according to studies. The figure that is most often quoted - and endorsed by the Government - is 20:1 (life years gained due to the benefits of cycling v the life-years lost through injuries).
Boys aged 10-16 who cycle regularly to school are 30% more likely to meet recommended fitness levels, while girls who cycle are 7 times more likely to do so.
In England, physical inactivity causes around 37,000 preventable premature deaths amongst people aged 40-79 per year.
In 2013, almost a third of children aged 2-15 were classed as either overweight or obese.
Without action, 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children will be obese by 2050 in the UK – and cost the NHS £10 billion p.a.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy):
Policy makers should recognise cycling as a healthy and convenient means of transport and recreation that could be incorporated into the ordinary day-to-day activity of millions of adults and children and so improve health and quality of life.
There is good evidence that cycling’s health benefits far outweigh the risks involved and that the more people who cycle, the safer it becomes – the ‘safety in numbers’ effect.
Cycling is also a benign mode of transport, causing negligible harm to others. Hence a switch from motorised travel to cycling would improve road safety for all by reducing road danger.
Public health and transport/planning policies, strategies and guidance, locally and nationally, should be mutually supportive in promoting and facilitating cycling as active travel; and they should clearly steer professionals towards cross-sector working. This will help tackle the serious, costly and growing crisis of physical inactivity and the health problems associated with it (e.g. obesity, heart disease etc).
Directors of Public Health (England) should take advantage of their return to local authorities to engage transport, town and spatial planning and other council departments (e.g. leisure and tourism) more closely in promoting cycling as active travel and recreation.
The NHS and its providers should actively promote cycling both to their own employees, to the people in their care, and to the general public; and they should invest in measures to support it (e.g. patient referral schemes, cycling facilities at sites as part of Travel Plans etc).
Transport and planning decisions should undergo a ‘health check’ to maximise the potential for positive impacts on active travel and minimise negative impacts. Tackling hostile road conditions is a priority because they put existing cyclists at risk and deter many others including children and young people.
Placing the onus solely on cyclists to protect themselves from injury does not tackle the risks they face at source. Health professionals should therefore remain cautious about cycle safety campaigns that focus on personal protective equipment.