Recreational and commuter cycling may help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease according to two recent studies. Anders Grontved, senior author of one of the studies, published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, said that the findings reinforced the message that being physically active didn’t have to mean doing regular structured exercise.
Medical News Today reports that Grontved and colleagues at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense analysed data on 53,723 Danish adults who were 50 to 65 years of age at the time of recruitment between 1993 and 1997.
Over 20 years of follow up, over 45,000 who regularly cycled to work or for leisure had 11 to 18 per cent fewer heart attacks than those who didn’t do any cycling. The study indicated that some protection against heart disease was achieved with as little as 30 minutes of cycling a week.
Participants who took up cycling in the first five years of follow-up had a 25 per cent reduced risk of developing heart disease compared with those who didn’t cycle in the subsequent 15-year period.
"Finding time for exercise can be challenging for many people, so clinicians working in the field of cardiovascular risk prevention should consider promoting cycling as a mode of transportation," advised Grontved.
A second study in the Journal of the American Heart Association also linked cycle commuting to a number of factors that can influence heart health.
Researchers followed 23,732 Swedish adults, with a mean age of 43.5 at the start of the study, over a 10-year period.
Initially, those who cycled to work were 15 per cent less likely to be obese, 13 per cent less likely to have high blood pressure, 15 per cent less likely to have high cholesterol and 12 percent less likely to have pre-diabetes or diabetes than those who used public transport or drove.
At the end, people who cycled were 39 per cent less likely to be obese, 11 per cent less likely to have high blood pressure, 20 per cent less likely to have high cholesterol and 18 per cent lower diabetes risk. People who switched from sedentary commutes to cycling also had reduced risk for each.
Senior study author Paul Franks from Lund University commented: "We found active commuting, which has the additional advantages of being time-efficient, cheaper and environmentally friendly is also great for your health. The multiple advantages of active commuting over structured exercise may help clinicians convey a message that many patients will embrace more readily than being told to join a gym, go for a jog, or join a sports team."