Cycling to work linked with large health benefits

Friday, 21 Apr, 2017

We then grouped our commuters into five categories: non-active (car/public transport); walking only; cycling (including some who also walked); mixed-mode walking (walking plus non-active); and mixed-mode cycling (cycling plus non-active, including some who also walked).

But if you don't fancy cycling the whole way to work (because it would take forever), have no fear.

Titled Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality, the research pins cycling down as the most beneficial form of travel for human health, outlining that the further a person cycles in a week the greater perk to health.

They found that commuting to work on a bike is linked to a 45 percent lower risk of developing cancer and a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease, compared to driving to work or taking public transport. Statistics also show that the number of people who cycle to work in Britain has stayed the same over the past decade. Walking commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD independent of major measured confounding factors. "It is paramount to make physical activity easier and more accessible if we are to reduce the burden of ill health caused by inactivity".

In fact, the risk of dying prematurely from any cause is 41% lower - so it's probably time to dust off that old bike in the shed.

Some 2,430 people died during the study period, with 496 deaths related to cardiovascular disease, which covers all diseases of the heart and circulation, and 1,126 deaths from cancer. However, they have several theories as to why bikers have better odds than walkers.

A potential explanation for this discrepancy could be that walkers commute shorter distances than cyclists - on average six miles a week, rather than the 30 covered on bikes.

Cycling to work cuts risk of cancer: study
Cycling to work 'provides major opportunities for health improvement'

To reap similar benefits as cyclists, walkers would have to commute for two hours a week at an average speed of three miles per hour.

Walking to work was also associated with a 27% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 36% lower risk of dying from it.

In addition to reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease, "a shift from vehicle to more active modes of travel will also decrease traffic in congested city centres and help to reduce air pollution, with further benefits for health", he added. Nevertheless, the findings suggest policymakers can make a big difference to public health by encouraging cycling to work in particular.

Some countries are well ahead of the United Kingdom in encouraging cyclists.

It was not always this way - both cities pursued clear strategies to improve cycle infrastructure first.

Nevertheless, they conclude that "the findings, if causal, suggest population health may be improved by policies that increase active commuting, particularly cycling, such as the creation of cycle lanes, cycle hire or purchase schemes, and better provision for cycles on public transport".

For the United Kingdom and other countries that have lagged behind, the new findings suggest there is a clear opportunity.

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