Pioneering course that improves health through cycling now open to everyone

A free cycling course that has improved the health of over a thousand people in West Yorkshire is now available to everyone in the region.

The Cycle for Health programme helps people get healthier through the physical and psychological benefits of cycling, such as exercise and meeting new people.

It was previously aimed at those suffering with poor health that were referred by a community organisation. Now anybody who wants to benefit from the course can sign up.

Over eight weeks, participants develop skills and build their confidence through bike rides led by qualified instructors. The course is free and participants do not need to have their own bike.

The programme has helped people with a wide variety of physical and mental health conditions, from anxiety to arthritis.

Evidence collected from previous years has shown the number of participants who met physical activity guidelines following the course rose to 73%, with 61% reporting their fitness had increased.

Six weeks after completing the course more than 85% of people showed an overall increase in their cycling levels.

The course was developed by Cycling UK and was funded by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Anyone interested in participating can sign up through the CityConnect website. 

Cllr Peter Carlill, Deputy Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said:  

"As well as being an affordable and sustainable way to travel, cycling has so many physical and mental health benefits.

“The Cycle for Health course is just one example of how we’re helping to make West Yorkshire a place where it just makes sense to walk and cycle shorter journeys.”

 James Scott, director of behaviour change & development at Cycling UK, said: 

“Cycling UK has been delivering this groundbreaking programme with West Yorkshire Combined Authority for over six years now, and last year 100 per cent of the people who took part reported feeling happier afterwards. 

“It shows cycling is about much more than just getting fit. It benefits mental health in particular, and the skills and confidence we give people will stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

Case study: Maryam 

Maryam is a woman living in Bradford who was recommended to take part in Cycle for Health by her doctor, to help with her recovery from an episode of psychosis.  

“I wanted to be part of a group, and to take some time to kind of learn some new techniques and things,” said Maryam.  “I'm interested in cycling, and it kind of cheered me up because I've been quite depressed and stuff.” 

The group Maryam took part in happened to be organised in her local area, with participants mostly from the same community as her. This made it easier for her to take part and be sociable with people in the group. 

“I'd like to keep in contact with people because they’ve been quite friendly with me,” said Maryam. “It's been nice being part of the group.”  

Sign up for Cycle for Health on CityConnect