Health Benefits of Cycling
There are loads of websites claiming that cycling is good for you, and most of these websites belong to cycling groups, or others who have something to gain from a greater uptake of cycling. So, what do they state, and more importantly should we believe them?
Is Cycling Good for Your Heart?
What about the old chestnut that cycling is good for your heart?
Well, this claim can be backed up by the statement contained in a UK government white paper titled Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation issued in 1999.
The white paper states:
"Physical activity is one of the key determinants of good health. A physically active lifestyle, including walking, cycling or participating in sport, reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke and promotes good mental health."
And a UK Government report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, Health Benefits of Physical Activity released October 2001 claims;
"Regular exercise, such as cycling, halves the chances of suffering from heart disease, the single largest cause of death in Britain".
So based on that evidence, it is One Nothing to the cycle advocay groups.
Does Cycling Improve Mental Health?
This is another often quoted statement - but is there any evidence to back it up?
Well, a study published in Science Direct, the leading platform of peer-reviewed literature, showed that aerobic exercise e.g. cycling can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety, potentially preventing anxiousness from developing into full-blown panic attacks or disorders.
Another study, this time published in the British Medical Journal concluded that "Stress reduction may be an important consequence of routine bicycle use and should be considered by decision makers as another potential benefit of its promotion".
So it now looks like Two Nothing to the bike lobby.
Other Cycling Related Health Benefits
Some websites and magazine articles claim that in addittion to being good for your heart and having mental health benefits, cycling also provides other health benefits - are they right?
Well, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology report mentioned above also states that regualr exercise , such as cycling, provides protection from strokes, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Further, just thinking about the mechanics of cycling shows it is a low impact activity and therefore is one of the safer ways to exercise without risk of over-exertion or strain to muscles and joints.
Looks like Three Nothing!
But Is Cycling Dangerous?
One of the main reasons non cyclists site for not cycling is a fear of being knocked off by motorists. Many websites dismiss this - should they?
The Department for Transport (DfT) figures for 2018 (the latest available at time of writing) show 99 cyclists died on Britain’s roads in 2018, two fewer than in 2017; 3,707 were seriously injured and 13,744 slightly injured.
So cyclists do have accidents. But is cycling more dangerous than other forms of transport?
Well, for 2018 cyclists accounted for 5.5% of all road accident fatalities, whereas car occupants accounted for 43.6% of all fatalities. But that isn't a fair comparison because cycling accounted for less than 1% of road traffic and car traffic accounted for more than 77% of total road mileage. It is estimated that there was 3.3 billion miles cycled in Britain in 2018 so that works out at one fatality over a distance equivalent to 1,000 rides round the world at its widest point.
The statisticians have normalised all the various numbers to give a mile-for-mile comparison between different modes of transport. This shows that for 2018 cyclists were far more likely to appear in road casualty statistics than car occupants. Car drivers had the fewest deaths, then cyclists, closely followed by pedestrian, and lastly motorcyclists.
Conclusion? The research suggests that the health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks by anything from 13:1 to 415:1 (depending on the factors considered).
To some a cycle helmet is probably the most important purchase after that of your bike. To others, its a waste of £30 or more. Here are a few arguments for and against the wearing of a Cycle Helmet.
Safe Road Positioning
Where is the safest place to cycle on the road?
Perhaps not where you first think!
Learn all about safe road positioning, including how far from the kerb to cycle, and what to do when the road changes in our guide.
The Highway Code
Keep up to date with all the information, advice, guides and mandatory rules for road users in the United Kingdom.
Winter in the north east of Scotland can be cold. But don't let that put you off getting out on your bike.
Here are our tips on how you can stay warm whilst enjoying cycling through the winter months.