Public Health England’s latest report focuses on cycling’s mental and physical health benefits

A recent study by Public Health England has found further evidence of the huge benefits more cycling and walking will provide for individuals, communities and the UK’s stretched health and care system.

The study – entitled Cycling and walking for individual and population health benefits – was recently discussed by MPs from across the house at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG).

The Public Health England (PHE) research found that more cycling and walking:

  • Improved metabolic health and a reduced risk of premature mortality
  • Reduction in the risk factors for many LTCs (e.g. cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, some cancers, type II diabetes)
  • Positive effects on mental health and general well-being
  • Reduction in pollution & road congestion (due to reduced car use)
  • Health benefits outweigh health risks and harms (e.g. from injury or pollution)

PHE said that cycling and walking are the easiest ways to embed physical activity in daily life and achieve recommended activity levels for health and wellbeing benefits. Consequently, PHE will support action on:

  • Active society (including Change4Life, One You)
  • Moving professionals (eg healthcare, education)
  • Active environments (resources for planners)
  • Evidence-based approaches (data, reviews)

It’s unlikely you’ll be unaware, but inactivity is a killer and an expensive one. According to a previous study from PHE, inactivity costs the nation £7.4 billion annually, a total far larger than the UK’s public sector net debt (£1,782 billion).

One in 3 men (34%) and almost 1 in 2 women (42%) are not active enough to be in good health. We’re 20% less active since 1960s (predicted to increase to 35% by 2030). Inactivity is responsible for 1 in 6 UK deaths, up to 40% of many long-term conditions and around 30% of later life functional limitation and falls.

This summer will see the publication of a study by Leeds Beckett University on a whole systems approach to obesity. The aim is to produce national guidance on how to set up and implement a local whole systems approach to tackling obesity.

With thanks to All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and Dr Mike Brennan, National Lead for Physical Activity, PHE.