So what's better for you, cycling or walking?The BMA (British Medical Association) has recently published research hailing the health benefits of active commuting. Walking, cycling, or a mixture of both with or without using public transport, were examined. Over 250,000 people were interviewed and followed up over 5 years. People who cycled to work reduced their risk of heart disease by 46%. Their risk of Cancer dropped by 45%. Even cyclists who used a combination of public transport and cycling reaped the benefits, with 80% reaching currently recommended exercise guidelines. Aside from a drop in cancer and heart disease, any exercise reduces a multitude of health problems. Walking to work was not as effective. Only 54% achieved their weekly recommended exercise. Walkers would need to cover at least 6 miles every week on their walk to work to reduce their risk of heart disease and this didn't make any difference to their risk of developing cancer. The word is out, cycling a day keeps the doctor away.
The Obesity Crisis - Cancer, heart disease and worseThe UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe and levels have more than tripled in the last 30 years. Fast forward to 2050 and, at this rate, over half the population could be classed as obese. A sedentary lifestyle is just one of 5 risk factors along with high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids, smoking, and obesity, that can increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Exercise can also reduce the risk of many cancers, in particular, colon, breast and endometrial (womb) cancer. Most people already know about these risks, but finding a way to act on them is hard. Burning the fat is a simple approach we can all do.
How YOU can reduce your risk of Cancer and heart Disease
Cycling to work, the whole way or using public transport as well, this can have huge benefits for your long-term health. Countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, where cycling is part of everyday life, have shown it is possible to get people cycling regularly. Around 41% of people commute to work by bicycle and it’s not just for the younger generation; 20% of 80-84-year-olds regularly cycle as well.
In the UK it’s more difficult. Many of our cities are mostly adapted for cars and aren’t very cycle-friendly. However, things look to be changing and the government has recently announced a £1.2 billion plan to get more people active on their way to work. This money will go towards improving cycling infrastructure within major cities, safety and awareness training for cyclists, improving local cycling facilities at railway stations, along with outreach programs to encourage children to walk and cycle to school.
So where to start? Some great initiatives have started such as the ‘Cycle to Work‘ or ‘Bike 2 Work‘ schemes where your employer pays for your bicycle and you pay them back in tax-free installments. There’s also lots of information around to make your commute more manageable as well, particularly if it’s not particularly biking friendly. Balancing busy lives can be difficult, but the huge health benefits of cycling to work are hard to ignore.
What to Aim for (current guidelines)
- At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week
- 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week
- A mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week. For example, two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity
- Strength exercises on two or more days a week
To find out more about how to integrate cycling into your commute click here.
To find out more about the currently recommended exercise guidelines click here.
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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing. All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.
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