More and more people are cycling to work for various reasons these days. Some do it to get away from the traffic, while others do it to cut costs. While the health benefits of cycling have never been a secret, a study points out that the activity offers more than most people thought previously, helping cut the risks of not just cardiovascular diseases, but also of cancer.
The killer diseases
Heart disease kills more men and women than any other cause of death, having caused almost one death every hour in the United States in 2008. In the same year, over 600,000 people died from heart disease, more than half of which was coronary heart disease.
Similarly, cancer is one of the most feared diseases today. In the U.K. alone, more than 163,000 people died from cancer in 2004. The most common types of cancer include lung, prostate and breast cancer. Mortality rates go down each year because of the development of new treatment and diagnostic methods, but this does not negate the fact that many continue to lose loved ones to this condition.
Heart disease and many types of cancer are considered lifestyle diseases because of their strong connection to factors such as diet, the amount of exercise and vices. In this regard, there are cases when it is possible to mitigate the risk for these diseases with the right habits.
Cycling has always been known to have health benefits, especially for people who want to lose weight or extend their endurance. A study in the United Kingdom found that cycling can also help reduce the risk for diseases like cancer and cardiovascular conditions.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow conducted the study over five years. They compared the commuting habits of their subjects. Unlike those who drove their car or took public transport, those who rode their bike showed lesser risk of dying early.
The results were remarkable. Bike riders were found to have 41% less risk of premature death from any cause. They had 46% less risk of cardiovascular disease and 45% less risk of developing cancer.
Dr. Jason Gill, from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, stated, “Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with substantially lower risk of adverse health outcomes.” He adds, “Those who cycled the full length of their commute had an over 40% lower risk of heart disease, cancer and overall mortality over the five years of follow-up.”
Dr. Gill expressed that these findings could facilitate the creation of policies that would support cyclists and encourage other people to ride their bike for health improvement.
Additionally, the study found that walking also had health benefits, but not as much as cycling. Those who walked to work also exhibited lower risks of cardiovascular diseases.
Dr Carlos Celis-Morale, from the University of Glasgow, explained, “This may be because walkers commuted shorter distances than cyclists, typically six miles per week, compared with 30 miles per week, and walking is generally a lower intensity of exercise than cycling.”
Now you have another reason to pick up the hobby and start biking.