Cycling health referral scheme reaches 1,000 people

More than 1,000 people have now taken part in a referral scheme aimed at boosting their mental health through physical activity across West Yorkshire, after being prescribed cycling by health care professionals.

The Cycle for Health scheme, now in its fourth year of delivery, is aimed at tackling health inequalities by offering people with long-term conditions a 12-week programme of cycle skills training. Latest figures show those who took part in the last year showed considerable improvements in mental well-being, with people reporting a 32 per cent increase in confidence, a 29 per cent increase in feeling close to others and a 26 per cent increase in feeling relaxed.   

The scheme is delivered by the national cycling charity, Cycling UK, in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme, which encourages more people to travel by bike and on foot. In the last year, 141 people took part, following referrals from GP surgeries, hospitals, clinical commissioning groups and mental health charities.

At the start of the programme, 82 per cent were not meeting the NHS physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week, with 31 per cent doing less than 30 minutes a week. Immediately following the programme the proportion meeting physical activity guidelines rose to 73 per cent, with 61 per cent reporting their fitness had increased.

Tom Murray, Cycling UK senior project officer, said: “The feedback from people who’ve been on the scheme is overwhelmingly positive, and over the course of 12 weeks we can see huge improvements in both their physical and mental health. It doesn’t matter if they could ride a bike before they came to us, our programme teaches them all sorts of skills from learning to ride through to going out in groups, using hand signals, checking for traffic and road positioning. And the confidence that gives them is very often life changing.”

Kim Groves, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said: “We often hear cycling described as a ‘magic pill’ or ‘miracle pill’, something that can help make people happier and healthier, live longer and cut public health costs, followed by questions about why it’s not being prescribed to the nation.

“Our Cycle for Health scheme is leading the way and this demonstrates the scale of our ambition, not only in encouraging more people to travel by bike, but also ensuring our residents are given the tools they need to lead happier, healthier lives. What’s more, over a third (42 per cent) of the people who’ve taken part in the scheme during the past year live in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country, proving schemes like this are helping tackle health inequalities where it matters most.”