Pioneering cycling programme offers health and wellbeing boost to West Yorkshire communities

The Cycle for Health scheme provides a group programme aimed at improving the lives of those with physical and mental health conditions.

People with long-term health conditions can benefit from an innovative programme aimed at improving all-round quality of life for people in communities most in need of support as the Cycle for Health scheme gets back underway.  

The pioneering programme is being delivered in partnership by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Cycling UK. It offers a structured route into regular activity for adults with long-term physical or mental health conditions who would particularly benefit from group exercise but may not otherwise have the opportunity to get involved.  

The 12-week course offers regular, low-impact activity with a familiar group of people and instructors. Participants can progress at their own pace, with support aimed at building long-term behaviour change and encouraging participants to remain active long after the course has finished.  

More than 1,000 people have already benefitted from Cycle for Health since the first programme got underway in 2016, with participants reporting significant improvements in their mental and physical health.   

The courses are designed to be inclusive to everyone, with 38% of those taking part coming from the most disadvantaged communities in West Yorkshire, while 71% of participants are women.  

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: 

“I promised in my election pledges to appoint an Inclusivity Champion to ensure the region’s recovery from the pandemic benefits us all.  

“The Cycle for Health scheme is a brilliant example of making sure no one is left behind when it comes to looking at ways to improve the health and wellbeing of people in West Yorkshire.  

“I want people from all communities and backgrounds to have the same opportunities, being able to access innovative support programmes such as this and experience the real benefits it delivers for themselves.” 

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Transport portfolio lead for West Yorkshire, said: 

“We’re so proud to have led the development of this ground-breaking scheme, and we’re even more proud to see the benefits it has brought to the more than 1,000 people who have taken part so far. 

“Cycle for Health is a fantastic example of what can be delivered at a grassroots level to see real change in the lived experience of our most disadvantaged communities.

“As the region recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic we're delighted to provide the programme again in 2021 to support the mental and physical health of the people who need it most.”  

Sarah Mitchell, chief executive of Cycling UK, said:  

“Cycling UK is delighted to be working with West Yorkshire Combined Authority to deliver the Cycle for Health scheme to more people across the region, building on its previous success. 

“Cycling is a tremendous way to boost our all-round wellbeing - physically, mentally and emotionally - and projects such as this reflect Cycling UK's commitment to sharing those benefits as widely as possible, to people from all backgrounds.” 

The Cycle for Health scheme is provided specifically for adults who are referred from healthcare organisations, including GPs and mental health services, as well as exercise referral schemes.  

Courses are run as weekly two-hour cycle training sessions over 12 weeks at sites across West Yorkshire. Developing relationships with community cycling groups is crucial to the programme so participants continue to be supported in being more active as part of their everyday lives. 

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.

Figures from September 2018 – September 2019 also showed considerable improvements in mental wellbeing, with participants reporting a 32% increase in confidence, a 29% increase in feeling close to others and a 26% increase in feeling relaxed.     

In addition to the pioneering Cycle for Health programme, CityConnect offers a range of support and free services to communities, businesses and schools, including free adult cycle training courses and walking for schools and businesses programmes. 

Find out more at - Cycling on prescription - CityConnect (cyclecityconnect.co.uk) 

The Cycle for Health scheme is a brilliant example of making sure no one is left behind when it comes to looking at ways to improve the health and wellbeing of people in West Yorkshire.

Tracy Brabin Mayor of West Yorkshire