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Health Secretary urges people on the sickness benefit to get active

Health Secretary Andy Burnham has said that people on incapacity benefit should take up more activities like cycling to help them back into employment. And Mr Burnham believes that the country could save millions of pounds a year if just one per cent of those on benefits became more active.

His comments came as part of a wider announcement as part of the government’s Change4Life public health drive to encourage Britons to become more active and take up activities such as cycling and swimming.

He said: "In England, if we can get just 1% of people on incapacity benefit back into the workplace through active lifestyles, this would save the Exchequer £36 million and industry £31 million - that's a combined cost to the economy of £67 million a year."

More than two-and-a-half million people are currently on incapacity benefit in Britain, with more than a third of those claiming it for mental health problems or muscular or skeletal disorders, and Mr Burnham said that these are conditions that are known to respond well to exercise.

According to the NHS £3,000 is spent every second on treating illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes which could be prevented by people taking more exercise, while a 20 per cent increase in cycling would save the NHS more than £50 million in treatments. And you are up to 50 per cent less likely to be at risk of major chronic disease such as coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer if you take regular exercise.

Mr Burnham said the UK must move from "relegation candidates to play-off contenders" when it comes to our exercise levels compared with other countries. Britain is currently in 21st place in Europe on activity levels, one of the least active countries on the continent.