Cycling is good for your health. It’s official

Image courtesy of ‘Participation’

You might have entertained stray thoughts about it. You may have strongly suspected it, but it’s now official. Yes. Cycling is good for you. An article in today’s Guardian reports the outcome of some research from ‘Scientists in Barcelona’.

September started with a brief spell of summer-time smog. Ground leveozone reached “moderate”, according to the UK pollution index, along the south coast on the 7th and 8th and then spread north as far as Blackpool, Sunderland, and the Edinburgh suburbs on the 9th. This was the day of the Paralympic marathon: fortunately the races were completed before pollution peaked in central London during the mid-afternoon……..Every urban cyclist is keenly aware of air pollution; they travel among the traffic close to vehicle exhaust. This proximity coupled with fast breathing rates leads to increased pollution dose. So is cycling bad for our health? Scientists in Barcelona looked at the health impact of that city’s cycle hire scheme, regularly used by 28,000 cyclists. They found that for each additional cyclist death caused by the extra air pollution exposure and road accidents, 77 deaths per year would be avoided due to the benefits from increased exercise. A recent UK study has suggested that the NHS might benefit from savings of £17bn in 20 years’ time if we increased urban walking and cycling to the current levels of Copenhagen; benefits from fewer heart attacks, strokes and less diabetes could be achieved within three years.

It would be nice to know a little more about this research. ‘Scientists in Barcelona’ makes them sound like some kind of shadowy cult. There’s no detail about how the study (or rather ‘studies’ as ‘a recent UK study’ is also cited) was conducted and the large number of cycle hire scheme users suggests an almighty sample size (hands up who think that 28000 people were tested?). Disappointingly, it’s all just a little lazy (a ‘C-‘ for the Guardian and a ‘Could do better’). But as cyclists and people who feel the wind in our hair, the pumping of blood around our veins and the de-stressing effect of regular exercise, there’s more than enough anecdotal evidence to substantiate those findings.We know it in our hearts and feel it in our legs.

So go spread the word. It’s official. Cycling is good for you.

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