Sad­dle up if you want to live a much longer and health­ier life

The Star Late Edition - - NEWS - DAILY MAIL

CY­CLING to work slashes the risk of cancer, heart prob­lems or dy­ing early by al­most half, Bri­tish re­search has re­vealed.

Adults who com­mute by bike are 45% less likely to get cancer and 46% less sus­cep­ti­ble to heart dis­ease. Their risk of dy­ing pre­ma­turely from any cause is 41% lower – de­spite the dan­gers of cy­cling on roads. The study of a quar­ter-of-a-mil­lion adults showed that bik­ing even short dis­tances was far more ben­e­fi­cial than walk­ing or us­ing pub­lic trans­port.

Sci­en­tists in Glas­gow, Scot­land, who are be­hind the find­ings are call­ing for a “step change” in pol­icy – in­clud­ing build­ing more cy­cle lanes – to pre­vent long-term ill­nesses.

Only about 7% of Bri­tish adults reg­u­larly cy­cle to work and just 4% do it ev­ery day. Many are put off by heavy traf­fic, the weather or not be­ing able to shower at the of­fice.

Al­though cy­cling has ob­vi­ous health ben­e­fits, this study is the first to show how it com­pares to walk­ing or tak­ing the bus.

The re­searchers, whose find­ings are pub­lished in the BMJ, a med­i­cal jour­nal, stud­ied the com­mut­ing habits of 263 450 mid­dle-aged men and women. They as­sessed their health for five years and recorded whether they de­vel­oped cancer, heart dis­ease or died of any cause.

Adults who walked to work – typ­i­cally 10km a week – were 27% less likely to de­velop heart dis­ease than those who drove or took pub­lic trans­port.

But walk­ing did not pro­tect them against cancer or other chronic health prob­lems – pos­si­bly be­cause they were not ex­er­cis­ing for long enough.

Adults who cy­cled to work for any dis­tance were more than 40% less likely to get cancer, heart dis­ease or die within the next five years.

Dr Ja­son Gill, of the Glas­gow Univer­sity In­sti­tute of Car­dio­vas­cu­lar and Med­i­cal Sci­ences, said: “Cy­cling all or part of the way to work was as­so­ci­ated with sub­stan­tially lower risk of ad­verse health.

“If these as­so­ci­a­tions are causal, they sug­gest that poli­cies to make it eas­ier to com­mute by bike – such as cy­cle lanes, city bike hire or sub­sidised cy­cle pur­chase schemes – may present ma­jor op­por­tu­ni­ties for pub­lic health im­prove­ment.

“What we need now is a step change in the way we de­velop trans­port sys­tems like we have seen in the Nether­lands and Scan­di­navia, where cy­cling is nor­mal and cities are built around it.

“It is the big­gest study into modes of com­mut­ing and their health ef­fects than all the pre­vi­ous ones put to­gether and shows con­clu­sively that cy­cling to work re­duces the risk of cancer and heart dis­ease.”

Co-au­thor of the study, Dr Car­los Celis-Mo­rales, said cy­cling may be more ben­e­fi­cial than walk­ing be­cause cy­clists tend to travel fur­ther. He added that “walk­ing is gen­er­ally a lower in­ten­sity ex­er­cise”.

NHS fig­ures last month showed a quar­ter of adults are in­ac­tive, mean­ing they don’t even man­age 30 min­utes of brisk walk­ing or cy­cling a week.

Clare Hyde, Cancer Re­search UK’s health in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, said: “Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity helps to re­duce the risk of cancer and, while the re­searchers are cautious about con­clud­ing too much about their re­sults, this study helps to high­light the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of build­ing ac­tiv­ity into your ev­ery­day life.

“Any­thing that gets you a bit hot and out of breath can help make a difference.”

De­spite the health boost from cy­cling reg­u­larly, there are fears that ex­po­sure to traf­fic fumes could re­duce the ben­e­fits. Fre­quently breath­ing in diesel pol­lu­tion causes ir­ri­ta­tion to the nose and eyes, as well as fa­tigue and breath­less­ness.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has la­belled diesel fumes a “def­i­nite car­cino­gen”.

In 2011, sci­en­tists at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh found the tiny par­ti­cles im­paired cir­cu­la­tion to the heart. This means they may worsen pre-ex­ist­ing heart con­di­tions or even cause them to de­velop in pre­vi­ously healthy adults.

Al­though petrol fumes also dam­age our health, diesel is far more harm­ful be­cause it con­tains higher vol­umes of the toxic gas ni­trous ox­ide.

Con­cerns over ve­hi­cle emis­sions are lead­ing Bri­tish cities to bring in ever-tighter traf­fic re­stric­tions.

Any­thing that gets you sweaty can make a difference

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