West Yorkshire cycling on prescription scheme helps boost mental and physical health

More than 1,000 people have been given a boost to their mental health thanks to West Yorkshire’s groundbreaking ‘cycling on prescription’ scheme.

The Cycle for Health scheme, now in its fourth year, is aimed at tackling health inequalities by offering people with long-term conditions a 12-week programme of cycle skills training.

Figures from the past 12 months to September 2019 show considerable improvements in mental wellbeing, 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.

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The scheme - run through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme - is also aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bike and on foot, in partnership with the national cycling charity, Cycling UK.

In the past year alone, 141 people have taken part, following referrals from GP surgeries, hospitals, Clinical Commissioning Groups and mental health charities.

Coun Kim Groves, chairman 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.”

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Andrea, 47, from Wakefield, said the course has been an opportunity to meet people and make friends, even though she has suffered from anxiety, finds it difficult to communicate and tends to withdraw from society.

She said: “I’m more confident. I’m able to be out with other people more than I would normally. My fitness has improved, my lung function is a lot better than it has been and now I actually want to go out and do other things, and keep cycling, keep active and really start living my life.”

Tom Murray, Cycling UK senior project officer, added: “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.”

For more information about CityConnect visit www.cyclecityconnect.co.uk.