Increased walking and cycling in urban areas and reduced use of private cars could have positive effects on many health outcomes. We estimated the potential effect of increased walking and cycling in urban England and Wales on costs to the National Health Service (NHS) for seven diseases--namely, type 2 diabetes, dementia, cerebrovascular disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, depression, and ischaemic heart disease--that are associated with physical inactivity. Within 20 years, reductions in the prevalences of type 2 diabetes, dementia, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer because of increased physical activity would lead to savings of roughly UK£17 billion (in 2010 prices) for the NHS, after adjustment for an increased risk of road traffic injuries. Further costs would be averted after 20 years. Sensitivity analyses show that results are invariably positive but sensitive to assumptions about time lag between the increase in active travel and changes in health outcomes. Increasing the amount of walking and cycling in urban settings could reduce costs to the NHS, permitting decreased government expenditure on health or releasing resources to fund additional health care.
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