July 27, 2020

Britain’s Government Prescribes Biking


It was Intelligent Health’s Dr. William Bird MBE  who led the way in Great Britain allowing medical doctors to prescribe walking as a way to help patients with mental and physical health.

Now British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is encouraging medical doctors to prescribe cycling for weight management, and the government will be investing in infrastructure to facilitate that.  With amassing proof that excess weight is associated with more severe illness from Covid-19, biking is seen as a low cost way to encourage fitness and exercise.  The Guardian notes that cycling used for a work commute is “linked to a 46% lower risk of heart disease compared with a non-active commute.”

As the BBC reports  there is an equity issue as well.  While “36% of the adult population is overweight and 28% obese… people living in deprived areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital with a condition related to obesity.”

One in ten British children starting primary school is obese, and that number doubles to two in five by the end of the primary school years. Comparatively 40 percent of Americans are obese, while in South Korea and Japan that number is less than 10 percent.

In Britain it is estimated that nearly 5 million of the 66 million population is thought to have diabetes which costs the national healthcare program 10 billion pounds a year (17 billion Canadian dollars). Ninety percent of this population has type 2 diabetes which has a high co-factor of obesity.

Current data shows that being obese doubles the chances of dying from Covid, meaning that in a country where healthcare is provided nationally, well-being is a federal issue.

The head of England’s National Health Service observed “The evidence is now in: obesity can double your chance of dying from coronavirus. So this pandemic is a call to arms to adopt medically proven changes in what we eat and how we exercise” .


Images: ABCNews, TheIndependent

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  1. Long story short:

    Bojo doesn’t have covid: UK will stay open to business
    Bojo get covid: UK is mandated to go to lock down
    Bojo is dieting: Uk is mandated to got to diet.

    1. It’s admittedly a poor leadership start from Boris. A Prime Ministry shouldn’t need to personally get sick before believing a global pandemic is actually serious. But at least he’s finally trying to set a national policy to mitigate the effects of the virus. It’s more than a lot of countries are getting.

  2. There is a real danger that overweight people are being stigmatised. The focus should be on fitness, not fatness. When we first started the health walks in the UK and in all the other projects since, we have focussed on the benefits of being active. Weight loss may or may not be a side effect of activity. But 90% of the benefits of being physically active are unrelated to weight loss: improved metabolic activity, muscle strength, mood, reduced cancer risk and improved bone density to name a few. All this are benefitted by the inflammation reducing effects of exercise…even if there is no weight loss. And it follows that these anti-inflammatory effects of physical activity will also likely protect from serious Covid complications. Please please let’s change the language and say that cycling is good for health without focusing on obesity. Not enough evidence has come out of Covid yet, but I suspect that when the data is fully analysed it will show better outcomes for fitter people, even though they may be fatter than average.

  3. Perhaps despite Boris’ and the UK’s rationale for advocating greater cycling for greater health – and fewer COVID-19 deaths, Quite a few provincial premiers and the PM would do well to follow Boris’ lead.

  4. This is funny to me because I see biking as a type of laziness ( as opposed to walking which can be a workout.)