"Want to live longer? Reduce your risk of cancer? And heart disease? Then cycle to work, say scientists." That’s how the BBC starts its news story on a massive new medical study which has confirmed the many health benefits of active travel. Other media outlets are just as effusive. "Cycling to work lowers the risk of dying early by 40 per cent," stresses the Telegraph. Even the tabloids are on the story, with the Mirror saying "Cycling to work can slash your chances of getting cancer of heart disease by 50%" and the Sun and the Mail taking similar lines.
All very good publicity, but will it filter through to the powers-that-be? Afterall, saving money on social care and the NHS is said to be a national imperitive. Well, here’s a way of doing just that. Will the government act to get more people on bikes? It says it is doing so, but it’s expected that the delayed Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy will be severely deficient in the "I" part of CWIS.
The latest study – in a long line of similar ones, and which all come to the same conclusion that cycling is not dangerious and, in fact, saves lives – is a biggie. It involved 263,450 UK commuters. Walking is also shown to have health benefits, but it’s cycling that shown to be the most effective at combatting common diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
The scientists added that cycling is so good because it becomes part of the work routine, it’s not forced exercise.
2,430 of those studied died, 3,748 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,110 had heart problems. It was found that regular cycling cut the risk of death from any cause by 41 percent, the incidence of cancer by 45 percent and heart disease by 46 percent.
The World Cancer Research Fund‘s head of health information Sarah Toule told BikeBiz:
“Cycling is a great way to incorporate regular, vigorous physical activity into your daily routine. Our own research shows being physically active is directly linked to a decreased risk of three cancers – breast, bowel and womb. Being active is also vital to maintaining a healthy weight, which decreases your risk of eleven common cancers.”
The study – "Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study" – has been published in the British Medical Journal.
The researchers conclude: "Commuting undertaken totally or partially by bicycle was associated with a lower risk of a range of adverse health outcomes … The findings … 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."
Is the government listening?