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Patients Are Getting "Bike Prescriptions" to Help Fight Heart Disease and Obesity

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Everyone knows that cardio is good for you, but it doesn't change the fact that many people today are severely lacking in that department.

With rising cases of heart disease killing people all around the world, now more than ever people need to get their cardio in whenever they can.

While it's nearly impossible to outrun, (or out-bike, -swim or -hike) a bad diet, getting one's blood flowing and burning some extra calories every day have enormous benefits for our bodies

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The trouble is, many of us, especially in industrialized nations, lead very sedentary lives. We either drive to work or take public transportation with minimal walking in between. Many of us are fairly sedentary at our jobs, too.

Even gym bros who love lifting heavy weights will treat the treadmill as if it's the bubonic plague. I can't count the number of times I skipped the 20 minutes of cardio I promised to do after my workout. This is even with the full knowledge that when I commit to it for extended periods of time, I feel my best.

But there are ways to get your cardio in without spending extra time at the gym or running your knees ragged while preparing for a marathon — and that's with a bike.

If you live a few miles away from your place of employment and the weather permits at least a couple of days a week, you could log in some serious mileage with a bicycle, benefitting your heart, and waistline.

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At least, that's  the logic that's currently being employed by the United Kingdom's National Health Service. The NHS has started allowing doctors to prescribe bikes to their patients in the form of ride-sharing platforms like CitiBike.

The benefits of cardiovascular exercise extend past losing weight and reducing the risk for heart disease. Cancer risks can also be brought down by up to 45 percent.

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Even a little bit of cycling can reduce a person's risk for heart disease and cancer by 36 percent and 32 percent respectively.

The "prescription bikes" are first being tested out in Cardiff, Wales. Patients who are prescribed a biking regimen will be able to use the Nextbike bike-sharing service.

With a prescription, patients will be able to enjoy daily 30-minute bike sessions for 6 months.

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The service is actually being funded by Nextbike, however, and not the NHS. The only role the healthcare organization is playing in the program is verifying whether or not patients could benefit from daily cycling.

The US and UK certainly lag behind other countries when it comes to cardiovascular exercise.

In the UK, only 3 percent of people cycle to work and 11 percent walk. In countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, 43 percent and 30 percent of employees bike to work, respectively.

Dr. Tom Porter spoke positively of the initiative, saying it's important for adults to be active for a minimum of 150 minutes a week. Commuting to work via a bicycle is a great way to get the 150+ minutes so many of us are desperately lacking, said Dr. Porter:

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"It is recommended that adults are active for at least 150 minutes every week, but many people feel that 150 minutes is simply too difficult to fit into their busy schedules...Not only can cycling to work reduce your risk of death from heart disease by 52 percent, but it's also a great way to get around the city without using your car, making it good for both you and the environment around you, and helping to keep the air clean for everyone while reducing carbon emissions." 

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While this is probably a no-go for people who commute really long distances, if you've got some safe side streets to ride on and a decent climate year round without living too far away from work, a 30-40 minute ride shouldn't be too difficult to manage every morning. You'll save money on gas, not to mention wear and tear on your car, and if you're a gym bro like me who abhors cardio, you'll get all the leg-pumping action you can handle just getting to and from work.

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There's also another added benefit of riding a bike to work: it takes roughly the same time, every time, barring any popped tires and bent rims. No traffic jams, no worries about construction, you can just wheel your bike or hop on a sidewalk for a spell if the road becomes a problem.

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