The UK government is set to prescribe cycling as part of a new public health policy trial.
The trial, which has received an investment of £12.7 million in funding, will roll out this year in 11 local authority areas across England, and is promised to be delivered alongside improvements to cycling infrastructure.
It is hoped that the new policy will improve both physical and mental health across the nation. The scheme includes free bike loans, all-ability taster days, community-focused cycling mental health groups and various walking activities.
In a statement issued by the government, Trudy Harrison, walking and cycling minister, said: “Walking and cycling has so many benefits – from improving air quality in our communities to reducing congestion on our busiest streets.
It also has an enormous positive impact on physical and mental health, which is why we have funded these projects which will get people across the country moving and ease the burden on our NHS.”
Research has shown that cycling contributes to improved lung health and mental well-being, as well as reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, who has been in charge of the government’s active travel body since January, said: “As a nation we need healthier, cheaper and more pleasant ways to get around for everyday trips.
“This trial aims to build on existing evidence to show how bringing transport, active travel and health together can make a positive impact on communities across England.”
The trials are an example of what the government calls “social prescribing”, a non-medical treatment which refers patients to community support schemes.
Minister for health Maria Caulfield said: “The UK is leading the way in embedding social prescribing in our NHS and communities across the country. We’ve already exceeded our target to ensure over 900,000 people are referred to social prescribing schemes by 2023-24 and this pilot will help us identify further schemes to reduce disparities and boost mental and physical well-being across the country."
The pilot trials will be launched this year and will continue until 2025.
The 11 authority areas earmarked for the scheme are Bath and North East Somerset, Bradford, Cornwall, Cumbria, Doncaster, Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Suffolk and Staffordshire.
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