Cycling to work may reduce risk of premature death

More cycle lanes would encourage more to make the journey to work by bike campaigners said

Cycling to work was associated with a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease over five years and a 45 percent lower risk of cancer compared to a sedentary commute.

They also have a reduced risk of dying from all causes.

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.

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

"Some cities are taking a leading role in doing that, like London and Manchester, which are doing some fantastic things".

Walking is also shown to have health benefits, but it's cycling that shown to be the most effective at combatting common diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Jason Torrance of cycling charity Sustrans told The Independent cycling to work was "a proven way for people to improve their health, to help their local economies and to improve their productivity at work". Even the tabloids are on the story, with the Mirror saying "Cycling to work can slash your chances of getting cancer of heart disease by 50%" and the Sun and the Mail taking similar lines.

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The greater benefits seen with cycling compared with walking may be because cycle commuters covered longer distances in their commutes than the walkers, the intensity of cycling is higher than walking and the cycle commuters had higher levels of fitness.

In an editorial, Professor Andersen said switching to cycling or walking could save lives and reduce the cost to the NHS of cardiovascular disease, now estimated at £15bn a year.

'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 examined how 264,000 people - averaging about 53 years old and pulled from a British database focusing on biological information - got to work each day.

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.

People who cycle to work have a substantially lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease or dying prematurely, and governments should do all they can to encourage more active commuting, scientists said on Thursday.

The researchers believe that their findings suggest that policies created to make it easier for people to commute by bike may present major opportunities for public health improvement.