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Reasons to be cheerful, parts one, two, and three

Almost every day we get fresh confirmation that getting more people on bikes is a good idea, and that the kinds of things we’ve been advocating for years are actually effective and useful. So in the immortal words of the Ian Dury and the Blockheads song, we’ve got reasons to be cheerful…and of Tim Blumenthal, “when people ride bikes, great things happen.”

Today we learned that the percentage of major employers offering financial incentives to their employees to engage in health and wellness programs increase from 57% in 2009 to 62% in 2010 and the average value of that cash incentive rose to $430 per person. 56% of employers found these programs to have a better than expected impact on participation!

A couple of days ago, Science Daily reported on a study that shows exercising outdoors makes people feel better than indoors: “ compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.

Last month, corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos confirmed that these issues are receiving attention at the highest levels. Two dozen global companies have created  a Workplace Wellness Alliance and are reporting “Return on investment of workplace health has been demonstrated to be as high as 4 US dollars per 1 dollar spent, contributing not only to increased productivity but also to better health in the general population with the workplace as an entry point for prevention at community level.”

Obviously the need for this exercise is more compelling than ever. We continue to get fatter at an alarming rate – not just in the US but worldwide, according to the latest numbers reported in the Lancet: “In 2008, an estimated 1.46 billion adults worldwide had a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or higher, including 502 million who were obese. During the study period, the age-standardized prevalence of obesity increased dramatically in both men (from 4.8% to 9.8%) and women (from 7.9% to 13.8%)”. And we learned that lifestyle, not genetics, is the stronger indicator of longevity and childhood obesity.

So the need for bicycling is there and the corporate world is clearly realizing the benefits of wellness to their bottom line. We’re just about to enter the review phase for the latest round of Bicycle Friendly Business applications; it will be interesting to see if bicycling is featuring more in their collective definition of what constitutes “wellness” programming. Earlier this week Darren wrote about the Minneapolis “safety in numbers” report, which adds to the body of knowledge that suggests that getting more people to ride is not only NOT a dangerous thing to be doing, but actually improves the overall level of safety for everyone riding. So come on corporate America…let’s get people riding!

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