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Cycling to work cuts risk of cancer and heart disease by almost half - experts

Brum's cycle city plans are underpinned by new health stats

Cycling to work cuts the risk of developing heart disease and cancer by almost half, research suggests.

Walking to work is also good for you, although it does not offer the same benefits as taking a bike, experts from the University of Glasgow found.

The new study on 264,337 people, 52 per cent of whom were women, found cycling to work is linked to a 45 per cent lower risk of developing cancer and a 46 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared to driving to work or taking public transport.

Overall, cyclists had a 41 per cent lower risk of premature death from any cause.

Special events such as Sky Ride are becoming more popular, but people should regularly cycle to work to improve health prospects say experts

Walking to work was also associated with a 27 per cent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 36 per cent lower risk of dying from it.

But there was no link with a lower risk of cancer or dying early from any cause in walkers, the study found.

People who preferred to stroll to work also had to walk for two hours a week in total to see health benefits, at an average speed of three miles per hour.

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Experts behind the study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), said the lower benefits seen for walking compared to cycling could be down to several factors.

These include the fact cyclists covered longer distances in their commutes than the walkers, cycling is a higher intensity exercise and cyclists were generally more fit.

The statistics come as the city council continues to plan a cycling revolution in Birmingham with the aim of making it more cycle friendly.

Among is plans are 2.5 miles of cycle lanes along the A38.

Images of a planned 2.5-mile cycleway along the A38 from the University of Birmingham to the city centre

The project would see a two-way, fully segregated cycleway along the busy commuter route, stretching from Selly Oak and the University of Birmingham campus to the city centre.

The route is direct and gives cyclists protection from traffic via raised kerbs and other separation measures and prioritised travel through junctions.

By 2033 it is hoped that ten per cent of all journeys in Birmingham will be made by bike.

Dr Carlos Celis-Morales, from the University of Glasgow, said: “Walking to work was associated with lower risk of heart disease, but unlike cycling was not associated with a significantly lower risk of cancer or overall death.

“This may be because walkers commuted shorter distances than cyclists, typically six miles per week, compared with 30 miles per week, and walking is generally a lower intensity of exercise than cycling.”

The study also found some health benefits if people cycled part of their journey and took public transport or drove the rest of the way.

The people taking part in the research were aged 52 on average at the start of the study and were followed for five years.

Some 2,430 people died during the study period, with 496 deaths related to cardiovascular disease, which covers all diseases of the heart and circulation, and 1,126 deaths from cancer.

Overall, 3,748 people developed cancer over the five years, and 1,110 had an event related to cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Dr Jason Gill, from the institute of cardiovascular and medical sciences at Glasgow, said the Government needs to look at ways to make it easier for people to commute by bike, such as creating “cycle lanes, city bike hire, subsidised cycle purchase schemes and increasing provision for cycles on public transport”.

These would create “major opportunities for public health improvement,” he added.

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