It’s generally recognised that exercise is good for you. But how good? A study published in the American Journal of Public Health has just revealed an interesting answer.
Three PhD researchers at the Healthy Urban Living research program of the University of Utrecht have used the “Health Economic Assessment Tool” and life table calculations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to input data comparing the Dutch, who cycle on average for 75 minutes a week – more than a quarter of the journeys they make – with non-cyclists from around the world.
The result of their research shows that for every hour of cycling, you live one hour longer, so the Dutch with their weekly average of 75 minutes, are likely to live 6 months longer than a non cyclist. And, importantly, their research showed that cycling appeared to avoid 11,000 premature deaths each year, in a population of 16.8 million. Pro rata, with a Suffolk population of 668,553, that would mean avoiding 438 premature deaths a year. In Norfolk, the figure is higher at 562 because of the higher population of 857,900. Viewed nationally, in a population of 64.1 million, the number of premature deaths avoided would be an astonishing 41,970.
Dr Carlijn Kamphuis, one of the researchers, commented “This is important information to convince policy makers of the importance of bicycle promotion measures,” and goes on to indicate the financial benefit of €31.4 billion – more than 5% of Dutch GDP – and how quickly cycling infrastructure can therefore be amortised, with a high cost-benefit ratio in the long term. Converting to the UK context, the benefit is £85.6 billion. For Suffolk and Norfolk the figures are £0.89 and £1.14 billion respectively.
Co-Researcher Dr Elliot Fishman, who is also director of the Institute for Sensible Transport in Melbourne, said “The Netherlands can act as a benchmark for the rest of the world when it comes to the benefits of cycling. Nowhere in the world do people cycle as much as in the Netherlands.”
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