Cycling to Work May Cut Heart Disease, Cancer Risk By Half

The advantages of cycling are plenty, especially when it comes to our cardiovascular health. A new study now adds to this growing evidence, saying cycling to work may cut heart disease and cancer risk by almost half.

The study, carried out over five years by researchers from the University of Glasgow, has pinpointed the health benefits of walking and cycling to work.

Findings of the study revealed that riding a bike to the work was correlated with a 45 percent reduced risk of cancer and 46 percent decreased risk of heart disease.

For the study, researchers assessed data of 263,450 UK commuters from the U.K. Biobank project. Of the participants, 48 percent were men and 52 percent were women, with a mean age 52.6 years. The commuters were asked about the way they went to work and were followed up for five years.

Over the five-year follow-up period, the researchers investigated how many cases of cancer, heart attack and deaths occurred which subsequently were related to their method of commuting. Overall, 2,430 of the study subjects died, 3,748 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,110 had cardiac problems.

The data analysis showed that regular cycling slashed the incidence of cancer by 45 percent and heart disease by 46 percent.

“Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with substantially lower risk of adverse health outcomes,” researcher Jason Gill, from the university’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, stated.

The association remained even after adjusting for factors like smoking, diet and weight. Dr Gill said: “This is really clear evidence that people who commute in an active way, particularly by cycling, were at lower risk. You need to get to work every day so if you built cycling into the day it essentially takes willpower out of the equation.

“What we really need to do is change our infrastructure to make it easier to cycle – we need bike lanes, to make it easier to put bikes on trains, showers at work.”

The findings also revealed that regular cycling to work reduced the risk of death from any cause by 41 percent. Furthermore, walking was also found to be associated with some benefits over sitting on public transport or using the car.

“Walking to work was associated with lower risk of heart disease, but unlike cycling was not associated with a significantly lower risk of cancer or overall death,” Carlos Celis-Morales, from the university said.

“This may be because walkers commuted shorter distances than cyclists – typically 6 miles per week, compared with 30 miles per week – and walking is generally a lower intensity of exercise than cycling.”

The research, titled “Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality”, was published Thursday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).