On your bike: Cycling to work linked with large health benefits

Cycle to work

On yer bike – if you don't want to die of heart disease or cancer according to a new study

The right-wing Tory peer has come in for a good deal of criticism for his comment, but new research suggests that people who have jobs can cut their risk of dying from major diseases if they commute by bike instead of relying on cars and public transport.

Many studies have extolled the virtues of cycling and walking in keeping us healthy.

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.

Those people who are health-oriented and choose to go by bicycle to work rather than on a bus or auto tend to slash their rates of heart attack and cancer by half.

The team in Glasgow said cycling took no willpower once it became part of the work routine - unlike going to the gym.

They found that people who walked to work had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and dying as a result of any cause.

The cyclists clocked an average of 30 miles per week, but the further they cycled the greater the health boon. Although the report does not claim to establish the direct causal links, the five year study of 250,000 commuters in the United Kingdom concludes that "cycle commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD, cancer, and all cause mortality".

Numbers have risen in recent years thanks to the Government's Cycle to Work Scheme - a tax-efficient scheme that allows employers to buy and hire out bikes to their staff for a regular payment.

The researchers conclude: "Commuting undertaken totally or partially by bicycle was associated with a lower risk of a range of adverse health outcomes".

Would these five changes actually help cyclists?

Only about 7 per cent of British adults regularly cycle to work and just 4 per cent do it every day.

Mainly because people who prefer to stroll to work actually have to walk for two hours a week in total to see any health benefits at all, compared to a short bike ride.

It means the reason cycling cuts cancer risk can not be down to weight loss in the study. The effect remained even after adjusting the data to account for smoking, diet and weight.

Cycling is thought to be better than walking as the exercise is both longer and more intense.

"You don't need to join a gym or run the marathon". It is paramount to make physical activity easier and more accessible if we are to reduce the burden of ill health caused by inactivity.

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

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