Riding low on exercise risk list

A five-year study on sport and physical activity has shown that the risks of serious injury are “astonishingly low”.

Even forms of activity sometimes considered risky by the public, such as road cycling, are generally safe, suggesting the benefits of taking part in fitness activities far outweigh the dangers.

Bike riding did not make the list of the study's highest 15 activities for injury incidence.

The study examined 61 sports and other physical activities and provided a comparable estimate of the risks to participants.

The investigation, funded by the British Medical Association and published by the British Medical Journal, counted hospital presentations resulting from exercise and sport across England and Wales.

Bike riding scored the second highest level of participation after walking, so injury case numbers were higher than some activities, but the incidence was very low.  Males accounted for the highest number of injuries. 

Motor sports, equestrian, hang-gliding and skateboarding were the top sports for injury levels.

Dr Sean Williams, a researcher at the Department for Health and the Centre for health and Injury and Illness Prevention at the University of Bath, and principal investigator of the study, said: “This work demonstrates that engaging in fitness activities is overwhelmingly a safe and beneficial pursuit.

“While no physical activity is entirely without risk, the chance of serious injury is exceedingly low when compared to the myriad health and wellness advantages gained from staying active.”

Fitness activities such as running, golf, dance classes and gym sessions were the least likely pursuits to result in injury.

Running results in 0.70 injuries, golf 1.25 injuries and fitness classes just 0.10 per 100000 participants/year, while bike riding results in 2.81, soccer 6.56 and rugby/rugby league 26.01.

Dr Williams said many sport and recreation injuries were preventable: “Whether that be through protective equipment, rule or law changes, or education, once we identify how and where injuries are occurring, we can start to think about ways to prevent them in each sport.”

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