The morning rush hour in any big city is something most people would rather avoid if they could. Thousands of commuters crammed into crowded trains and gridlocked roads make it a decidedly unpleasant experience.
In 2017, motorists in London lost an average of 74 hours – more than three days – stuck in rush hour traffic. It’s no wonder that more and more people are choosing to cycle to work nowadays.
But as well as beating the traffic, cyclists also benefit from better physical and mental health too, according to two separate, recently published studies.
The first study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), the findings of which were published in the journal Environment International, looked at people’s transport choices in seven European cities, including London. It involved over 3,500 individuals, all of who were asked questions about their travel choices and how they perceive their health.
It was discovered that people who cycled reported better general health, had lower stress levels, greater vitality and felt less lonely than those who used other forms of transport. Walking came in second for health benefits, while cars, interestingly, were associated with just one benefit: fewer feelings of loneliness.
“This result is most likely due to the fact that the study population drove very infrequently and most journeys by car were probably for social purposes, such as visiting a family member or a friend,” said Ione Avila Palencia, lead author of the study and a researcher at ISGlobal.
The second study to reveal the mental health benefits of cycling involved more than 1.2 million individuals in the US. It found that while all types of exercise improved overall mental health, cycling was particularly beneficial, affording significant benefits in terms of both physical and mental wellbeing.
According to the findings of the study, which were published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, people who did no exercise at all had 3.4 poor mental health days over the course of a month. People who performed physical activity, on the other hand, only experienced two poor mental health days per month.
Furthermore, exercise was found to be most protective for people who had previously experienced depression, helping them enjoy four fewer days of poor mental health per month.
Of the 75 different types of exercise analysed, cycling was found to be especially beneficial, ranking a close second behind only team sports in the list.
The researchers concluded that team sports were the most beneficial because they include both physical activity and a social element. Given that this is the case, cycling with a few friends could offer similar benefits.
“Physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health burden,” concluded the researchers.
So if you’re fed up of your morning commute and you’re confident on a bicycle, why not consider cycling into work. Even one day a week could give you a physical and mental health boost, as well as saving you from being stuck in the rush hour traffic.
I have over 18 years experience in the Medical Insurance Industry, much of that spent working for Aviva Health in the Distribution team. I joined Premier Choice in 2015 and in that time I have been helping clients to develop the best possible approach to protecting their health. My understanding of how insurers work puts me in a strong position to negotiate the best solutions on behalf of our clients.