Levels of depression among cyclists is 25% lower – supporting a healthier, more engaged and more productive workforce
To celebrate this year’s Cycle to Work Day, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace – an annual survey developed by VitalityHealth and delivered in partnership with the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe – has revealed that three quarters (75%) of employers are taking advantage of cycling’s popularity and are offering a bicycle purchase scheme.
Nearly a week after Geraint Thomas was given a hero’s welcome back in Cardiff after his Tour de France victory, the success British cyclists have been enjoying for the last seven years across the channel appears to have set off a chain reaction, with the uptake of cycle to work schemes now more popular than ever – with one in three Brits who have access to the scheme getting back in the saddle.
The survey, which studies the link between lifestyle behaviours, health risks and productivity – revealed that employees who cycle regularly are also seeing health and work-related benefits, including:
- Those who cycle regularly suffer less work impairment. A comparison of cyclists with those who were inactive found that those who did not cycle lost, on average, six additional days per year of productive working time due to ill-health related absence and presenteeism.
- Those that cycle cut the likelihood of being in the obese weight range by half.
- Levels of depression among cyclists are approximately 25% lower than the inactive group.
- 20% of cyclists have a high life satisfaction score, compared with 15% of others.
Shaun Subel, Director of Corporate Wellbeing Strategy at VitalityHealth, said:
“For too long, the link between employee lifestyle choices, their physical and mental health, and their work performance has been ignored. Our data demonstrates a clear relationship – employees who make healthier lifestyle choices, such as cycling, exhibit higher levels of work engagement and lower levels of stress.
“As a result, effective workplace health and wellbeing solutions, such as cycle to work schemes, can deliver tangible improvements in employee engagement and productivity, and make a significant impact on an organisation’s bottom line.”
The sectors in the slipstream
Employers in the education and retail sectors are leading the pack as the most likely to offer cycle to work schemes, while manufacturing is the sector lagging furthest behind as the least likely to offer the scheme to employees.
Despite the impressive uptake of the scheme, there is still more that needs to be done by employers to facilitate the growing numbers interested in getting on their bike, with a third of employers not providing more practical interventions such as facilities for storing bicycles (30%) or locker and shower facilities at the workplace (32%).
|GETTING BACK ON YOUR BIKE – THE BENEFITS
Andy Magill, Head Coach at VitalityHealth
Although most of us might be more inclined to hop on a bicycle on National Cycle to Work Day, the benefits of cycling are threefold and, in my book, fall into three intertwined categories: Fitness, Stress and Financial Wellbeing.
Cycling is a fantastic aerobic exercise which will improve cardiovascular fitness and can positively impact clinical markers such as resting heart rate and blood pressure. It’s also a great way to strengthen your whole body, the consistent movement required of your legs to turn the pedals improves mobility and flexibility, and the need to maintain your posture throughout your cycle is also great for strengthening your core.
Cycling is also a great low-impact exercise and a very effective alternative to impact exercises such as running, especially if you are returning from injury or trying to lose weight. It has all the benefits but puts much less stress on your bones and joints.
Cycling to work is a great way to turn your commute into an exercise session and reap the stress reduction benefits with the subsequent endorphin release. Commuting by exercising, such as cycling, offers a great stress reduction benefit as it leads to the release of dopamine, the chemical responsible for adrenaline, as well as endorphins. You also avoid the potential stresses that come with having to fight for space on a busy train or wait in heavy traffic. This means when you arrive at work you’ll feel refreshed, energised and ready to start the day.
This works the other way too. When you arrive home from work after a cycle, you’ll be re-energised and consequently be in a better place to face a busy household or the projects you need to do in the evening – even if it’s just catching up on your latest TV show.
What’s more, because you can’t use a device while cycling, it’s a great excuse to take some time to reflect on the working day ahead or the day you’ve just had, and plan effectively with clarity.
Cycling is a very cost-effective way to commute to work, and a great way to get about and see places on your weekends. You’ll save money on a regular travel pass on public transport, as well as the costs associated with travelling by car every day.
It can also be a really sociable activity Because it is low-impact, people can get involved at every level; whether it’s with your colleagues, friends after work or with your family at the weekend.
Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.