British National Health Experts: Cycling Safer Than Couch Sitting

A British national health authority is advising UK residents to make walking and cycling the norm for short trips, in order to reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with the nation’s obesity epidemic.

Inactivity poses greater risks than cycling, says one leading British medical expert. Photo: The Guardian

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issued a 97-page report Wednesday on the topic with a number of recommendations. The National Health Service reports that 26 percent of British people are obese, while in America the figure is 35.7 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The researchers recommends biking and walking as the best way to integrate more activity into the daily lives of British people, and they’re pressuring government officials to get to work on making active transportation a more attractive choice, according to the Guardian.

The report urges local governments to install more complete bicycle infrastructure, help schools establish “walking buses,” and encourage employers to create programs aimed at helping staff members drive less.

“We all face barriers in changing our lifestyles and many of us feel we don’t have the time or the inclination to add regular physical activity into our lives,” Dr. Harry Rutter, an obesity researcher who led the study for NICE, told the Guardian. “But walking and cycling – to work, to school, to the shops or elsewhere – can make a huge difference. It’s an opportunity to make these activities part of normal, routine daily behavior.”

Dr. Rutter has had to defend cycling from worrywarts who questioned whether the activity is too dangerous.

“This focus on the dangers of cycling is something to do with the visibility of them, and the attention it’s given,” he said. “What we don’t notice is that if you were to spend an hour a day riding a bike rather than being sedentary and driving a car there’s a cost to that sedentary time. It’s silent, it doesn’t get noticed. What we’re talking about here is shifting the balance from that invisible danger of sitting still towards the positive health benefits of cycling.”

Researchers report that inactivity in the UK is as big a public health problem as smoking. According to their metrics only one in four British women, and one in three men, are getting enough exercise to live healthy lives.