Sustrans’ Active Travel scheme’s latest information bulletin has highlighted the vital role that cycling can play in maintaining female health – at every age.
As well as the well-known general health benefits of cycling – reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes and mental health problems – the new public information sheet also highlights some advantages specific to women, including improving bone strength and contributing towards a healthy pregnancy.
Evidence shows that many youngsters become less and less active from their teenage years onwards (a trend particularly noticeable in young females) and Sustrans’ Active Travel initiatives aim to help as many females as possible to incorporate the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise (for 5 days a week) into their daily lives.
According to the ‘Active travel and women’s health’ information sheet the initiative has its work cut out, with only around a quarter of women throughout Great Britain getting the recommended exercise levels. A recent Scottish survey showed a significant variation of female exercise levels, though it used rather opaque language, finding that 27% of women in ‘routine households’ get sufficient exercise compared to 32% in ‘small employer’ households. The Scottish survey also underlined the age-related nature of the problem, with 63% of girls between 2 and 15 being sufficiently physically active, the figure falling to 41% in the 13 to 15 age group.
Cycling and walking are also stressed as a great way to fend off health problems associated with advancing age. Such activity appears to enhance mood and quality of life during the menopause and is also associated with a reduced risk of post-menopausal breast cancer and maintaining healthy bone structure. Cycling in older women will also help prevent those cerebrovascular diseases to which they are particularly prone, namely heart disease and strokes.
Information sheet FH11 is downloadable by going to Sustrans’ website and following the links in the ‘Active travel and women’s health’ section.