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Cycling the best mode of transport for self-perceived mental and physical health, new study finds

Joe Robinson
16 Aug 2018

City cyclists experience better self-percieved mental and physical health due to their mode of transport

A new study has determined that cycling is the best form of transport across a city for both your physical and mental health. 

Research conducted across seven European cities, including London, Barcelona and Rome, found that people who cycled in cities not only experienced better self-perceived general health but also found themselves to have lower stress levels and fewer feelings of loneliness. 

The study, which was led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and Imperial College London, found that cycling was seen to improve self-perceived levels of physical and mental health in all seven cities.

Results were taken from a questionnaire completed by 3,500 participants, which included questions on which transport methods they used, how they viewed their own physical health and how they assessed their own mental health, vitality and perceived stress levels. 

Across all parameters covered, cycling was shown to yield the best results, proving a clear trend between health and increased bicycle use. Second to cycling was walking which shared similar results though not as clear-cut. 

Unsurprisingly, the analysis also revealed that regular car and public transport users were associated with the worst self-perceived health. However, the results also show that those who use a car and public transport assess their health to be better when combined with cycling and walking. 

Lead author on the study, Ione Ávila-Palencia, believes this furthers the argument that cycling should be encouraged as the primary mode of transport in European cities.

’The findings were similar in all of the cities we studied. This suggests that active transport – especially cycling – should be encouraged in order to improve health and increase social interaction,' explained Ávila-Palencia.

'The percentage of people who cycle remains low in all European cities, except in countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, which means that there is plenty of room to increase bicycle use.'

These findings align with recent research from free2cycle which suggests just 8 per cent of employers are making concessions for employees who commute by foot or bike, despite one in ten workers who commute by public transport claiming to be less productive due to their choice of transport.

This same research found that 95 per cent of employees who do not walk or ride to work have considered a more active form of travel.  

However, the push to increase the number of people who commute by bike in major cities – particularly in the UK – continues to struggle to overcome barriers that are regularly placed against this form of travel.

The most recent example is of course the subsequently-deleted tweet by the Conservative Party this week claiming to be 'cracking down on dangerous cycling' in order to protect 'vulnerable road users'.

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