GPs to prescribe cycling lessons, bike loans and long walks in health shake-up

Learning to ride a bike or getting out for a walk could all soon be just what the doctor ordered under new health plans.

Some GPs will start prescribing back to basics treatments as part of a trial to see how big a difference small lifestyle changes can make to mental and physical complaints.

Adult cycle training, walking groups and free bike loans are all being backed by the government in a new £12.7 million scheme. 

The pilot programme will run in 11 areas until 2025 and could herald a shift in the way family doctors tackle common health problems. 

Participating local authorities are being told they must improve infrastructure alongside the trials so people feel safe undertaking physical activities. 

GP prescriptions will also include wheeling for wheelchair or mobility scooter users, as well as all-ability cycling taster days and exercise mental health groups.

Olympic gold medalist and former cycling world champion Chris Boardman, who is commissioner of the new National Active Travel agency, said: ‘As a nation we need healthier, cheaper and more pleasant ways to get around for everyday trips.

He added: ‘Moving more will lead to a healthier nation, a reduced burden on the NHS, less cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as huge cost savings.

‘This trial aims to build on existing evidence to show how bringing transport, active travel and health together can make a positive impact on communities across England.’

The trials will kick off this year in Bath and North East Somerset, Bradford, Cornwall, Cumbria, Doncaster, Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Suffolk and Staffordshire.

It builds on a government review published in 2020 which said physical activity should be a core part of improving the nation’s health.

Health minister Maria Caulfield, said: ‘Getting active is hugely beneficial for both our mental and physical health, helping reduce stress and ward off other illness such as heart disease and obesity.

‘The UK is leading the way in embedding social prescribing in our NHS and communities across the country.’

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