National policies on cycling infrastructure needed to stave off obesity crisis, says WHO

Cycling for transport is cited as a key solution to keeping people fit and healthy, says a major new study in The Lancet.

36 per cent of adults in the UK are insufficiently active, claims the study. Governments must provide and maintain infrastructure that promotes increased walking and cycling for transport, say the study’s authors.

1.4 billion adults around the world have a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease, because they do too little physical activity, according to data which estimates global physical activity trends over time. The study was undertaken by researchers from the World Health Organization and has just been published in The Lancet Global Health journal.

 “Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health,” warns the study’s lead author, Dr Regina Guthold. 

The study says “National policy needs to be implemented to encourage non-motorised modes of transportation, such as walking and cycling… …Effective policies include improved provision of cycling and walking infrastructure, improving road safety.”

According to “Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1·9 million participants” there has been an increase of five per cent in the prevalence of insufficient activity in high-income countries, from 32 per cent in 2001 to 37 per cent in 2016. 

“Almost three-quarters of countries report having a policy or action plan to tackle physical inactivity, few have been implemented to have national impact. Countries will need to improve policy implementation to increase physical activity opportunities and encourage more people to be physically active,” added Dr Fiona Bull, one of the co-authors of the study. 

Dr Randy Rzewnicki, health policy officer at the European Cyclists’ Federation said: “We can save 100,000 lives in Europe each year if every adult adds 15 minutes of walking or cycling."

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