The latest Sustrans campaign aims to introduce standards for employers to make it easier for people to cycle to work. They quote evidence which suggests that cycling to work leads to fewer days off sick, so I decided to check my own records….
I’ve always been reasonably healthy but usually suffer a few days each year of stomach upsets, or man-flu, that sort of thing. I’ve never, ever been the type to “pull a sickie” so my figures all represent genuine illness where I felt too unwell to go in to work. The average number of days of sick leave across my organisation is around 11, and I’ve always been lower than that so perhaps I am healthier than ‘average’ anyway. (Or maybe average people “pull a sickie” every now and again?)
So, what do the numbers say?
Here’s a chart I created from the data I was given by my HR colleagues, covering the past six years.
- The first zone (peachy orange colour) was back in the days when I did no regular exercise at all. The average across these three years is 5 days per year.
- Middle zone, light green – I began to make efforts to get in shape, as I was approaching 40 and thought I’d better start to take control!
- In 2011 I got my road bike and started cycling regularly (darker green zone). So far this year, 2013-14 I’ve not had reason to take any sick leave at all.
Correlation doesn’t always mean causation, but..
In this case it seems fairly clear that regularly cycling to work (or just regularly cycling) has improved my health and resulted in fewer days off sick. Hardly surprising, I know, but always reassuring to see real data backing up the theory.
Of course this is just one case study, and the same pattern of reduced sickness absence might not be seen in everyone who starts taking regular exercise, but it’s a fair assumption that most would benefit measurably.
Old dogs, new tricks?
I’ve suggested that my employers should take a look at the Sustrans campaign with a view to investing in some more of the suggestions (we already do some). It’s obvious to me that we need to go a little bit further to really change people’s behaviour. Whilst many take advantage of the cycle to work scheme to get a cheap bike, I don’t see anyone else actually cycling to work.
Here’s a great PDF from Sustrans, with lots of good reasons to support cycling to work.
Download it, have a read.
What about you?
I’d love to hear your stories about how you’ve benefited from getting fit, possibly from cycling to work, which resulted in benefits to your employer, such as reduced sickness absence. Please share in the comments. Thanks
Finally, please add your support to the Sustrans Campaign and sign the petition.