Chief medical officer tells the UK to get on their bikes

Annual report on the nation's health encourages more people to cycle

The UK's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has released her annual report into the state of the country's health – and has called for more people to cycle.

Citing that she is concerned that society may be normalising being overweight, the head of the medical services stressed that a healthier population would save the NHS millions.

The senior government official also said: "Encouraging more people to engage in... cycling is crucial to improving the health of the nation and reducing the prevalence of obesity."

The comments have been welcomed by sports governing body British Cycling with campaigns manager Martin Key adding: "Today's report by the chief medical officer highlights the vital need for cycling to be prioritised as a form of transport. From our research we know that almost two thirds of people would travel more by bike if cycling was accommodated in road design.

"As this report makes clear, the health benefits of cycling through improved fitness outweigh the risks by 700%. To overcome this we need to transform our towns into people friendly places with safe, separated bike lanes which link people to the places they want to go.

"Cities like Cambridge, where almost a third of people cycle to work, are real life examples of how cycling can be made safer as well as a viable, attractive alternative to driving."

More funding needed

Meanwhile sustainable transport charity Sustrans have responded to the report by also calling for funding to encourage active travel.

The group's health director Philip Insall said: "The government needs to heed Dame Sally's warning that too few of us are achieving the necessary levels of physical activity, particularly when it comes to young people. Walking or cycling everyday journeys, such as the school run, is an easy way to incorporate that healthy physical activity into the daily routine, and every time public health experts talk of the inactivity crisis they repeat this. 

"Addressing unhealthy diet, such as through sugar or fat taxes, should of course be allied to measures which make physical activity much easier to choose. It really is critical that government establishes sustained, dedicated funding programmes to make active travel the natural choice where we live, work and go to school."

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