Cycling to work 'almost halves risk of cancer and heart disease'

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The research, carried out over five years by experts from the University of Glasgow, concluded that overall cyclists have a 41% lower risk of premature death from any cause.

Jason Torrance, head of policy at the walking and cycling charity Sustrans said cycling to work is "a proven way for people to improve their health, to help their local economies and to improve their productivity at work".

"You need to get to work every day so if you built cycling into the day it essentially takes willpower out of the equation".

Cycling in London is notoriously unsafe but, it turns out, braving the streets may have surprising health benefits.

Although petrol fumes also damage our health, diesel is far more harmful because it contains higher volumes of the toxic gas nitrous oxide.

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And, although walking to work is good for you, it does not provide the same health benefits as using a bike.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the BMJ, studied the commuting habits of 263,450 middle aged men and women.

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

But walking did not protect them against cancer or other chronic health problems - possibly because they were not exercising for long enough. All were followed up for an average of five years. However, they write that "the findings, if causal, suggest population health may be improved by policies that increase active commuting, particularly cycling, such as the creation of cycle lanes, cycle hire or purchase schemes, and better provision for cycles on public transport".

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He hopes this will trigger a change in the way transport systems in Britain are developed, making roads more bike friendly as seen in the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

"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", the university's Carlos Celis-Morales said.

'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'. That's how the BBC starts its news story on a massive new medical study which has confirmed the many health benefits of active travel.

And Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: "It is paramount to make physical activity easier and more accessible".

But if you don't fancy cycling the whole way to work (because it would take forever), have no fear.

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