Employees who cycle to work have a significantly lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and early death, but are more likely to become injured than those who travel to work by car or public transport.
A University of Glasgow study of data for 230,390 commuters, published in the BMJ, found that cycling was associated with a higher risk of injury to arms and legs, the torso, the head or neck, and fracture injuries, as well as injury-related hospital stays.
Of the 5,704 people who only cycled to work, 7% were injured, while 6% who cycled for part of their commute received an injury. In contrast, 4.3% of the commuters who travelled by car or public transport were injured.
After consideration of factors such as age, sex, and physical activity levels, cycling to work was associated with a 45% higher risk of hospital admission for a first injury and a 3.4-fold higher risk of a transport related incident, compared to those who took public transport or drove to work.
However, cyclists had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (21%), lower risk of first cancer diagnosis (11%) and lower risk of death (12%).
Study participants were recruited in 2006-2010 and were monitored for an average of 8.9 years.
The study’s authors said: “The risk of injury associated with cycling commuting needs to be taken seriously and safer infrastructure provided if we are to address cycling dangers (both real and perceived) in the UK. This could help increase the uptake of cycling commuting with resulting benefits to health and the environment.”