Despite wide public acknowledgement of the innumerable benefits of exercise, rates of regular physical activity among adults worldwide still remains staggeringly low. An international survey of 122 countries using three definitions of physical activity estimated that a full 31.1% of adults (aged 15+) are physically inactive. Rates of inactivity are highest in the Americas and the eastern Mediterranean. Inactivity also increases with age, and is more common in women than men.
“People are often put off by the thought of being active for 150 minutes a week,” study lead Glenn Stewart says. “But if this is made part of getting around, it almost becomes hard not to meet the guidelines.”
Stewart’s research provides impetus for greater investment in safe cycling infrastructure and promotion of commuter cycling as a simple, cost-effective solution to a what is becoming a significant public health issue. “Seventy per cent of the NHS budget is spent on long-term conditions and 20 to 40 per cent of all long term conditions can be reduced or ameliorated by physical activity. So physical activity is a very good thing. Cycling and active transportation are very good things.”
Stewart also cast aside any notion that potential risks caused by cycling outweighed the potential benefits of the exercise. “Yes, there are risks in terms of collisions and exposure to pollution, but those things statistically are very, very small in comparison with the health benefits that you get from cycling,” adding, “The evidence on pollution is you’re much better off cycling than being in a car.”
As nations worldwide grapple with the obesity epidemic, rapidly rising rates of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, encouraging regular cycling seems like the least complicated way to begin addressing some very complicated issues.