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Cycling to Work Can Extend Your Lifespan

September 09, 2023 at 2:00 PM EST.

As if you needed another reason to incorporate cycling into your routine! Competitive cyclists already know bicycling is associated with improved muscle strength and tone, better cardiovascular health, increased energy levels and healthier blood circulation. But new research shows even if you’re not a serious cyclist, just biking to work can significantly extend your lifespan.

Research from the University of Glasgow says biking to work is related with a 45 percent lower risk of cancer and a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease. More specifically, cyclists had a 52 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, and 40 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.

More than a quarter million people from the U.K. Biobank project were assessed, with individuals reporting how they got to work, and maintaining contact with project scientists for five years. Over that five-year period, those who cycled the full length of their commute had an overall 40 percent lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Researchers collected data on subjects’ daily commute- walking, cycling, non-active methods like public transportation and mixed transportation (i.e. cycling to a train stop and taking the train the rest of the way).

Study organizer concluded that the findings suggest policies that help make commuting by bike easier and safer may offer important prospects for public health improvement. Some American cities are already jumping on the cycling commute bandwagon, creating more bike lanes, implementing subsidized bicycle purchase systems, and creating cheap cycle share programs.

Overseas, the cities of even more cycle friendly countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark, up to 41 percent of people already commute by bike. Those cities have spent decades investing in cycling infrastructure, learning that most cyclists prefer protected, direct routes on major roads and low-traffic neighborhood streets. This means individuals of all ages cycle, and not just to work. For example, in the Netherlands, 20 percent of 80 to 84-year-olds still regularly bicycle!

The study also showed walking to work offered some health benefits such as a reduction in risk of CVD and morality, but cycling fared even better. This may be because walkers commute shorter distances than cyclists- 6 miles per week, compared with 30 miles per week. It’s also speculated their morality rate is not as lowered as cyclists because walking is generally a lower intensity of exercise than cycling.

Many serious bicyclists are hopeful that policymakers catch on to the cycling craze. Not only will guidelines aimed at increasing bicycle safety encourage more individuals lead healthy lifestyles, but it should also lead to less traffic and pollution.