Cycling to work in middle age dramatically reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack in later life, a major study reveals. As little as 30 minutes a week has a marked effect on the chance of developing coronary heart disease over the next 20 years, researchers found. The Danish study, which recruited 45,000 people aged between 50 and 65, and then tracked them over the next two decades, revealed that consistent exercise has a huge impact on health – especially done as part of a routine.
People who consistently spent 90 minutes on their bike a week were 24 per cent less likely to develop angina or have a heart attack. And those who spent half an hour cycling a week – even as a leisure activity – had a 16 per cent reduced risk. The NHS advises that people do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, such as walking or cycling, or 75 minutes of strenuous exercise such as running or playing football. But four out of five Britons fail to achieve the target, fuelling an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
Public health experts are now increasingly encouraging people to take up activities that they can weave into their daily routine. Many people are intimidated by gyms and strenuous fitness programmes, and experts are instead shifting their focus to get people to build in more moderate exercise that they will not give up on.
Walking or cycling as part of the daily commute – or other regular activities such as walking the dog – is considered an ideal way to persuade people to exercise consistently. Study leader Dr Anders Grøntved of the University of Southern Denmark said, ‘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.’
His research team, who published their findings in the Circulation medical journal, monitored the 45,000 volunteers between 1993 and 2013. In all, there were 2,892 heart attacks over the 20 years. The authors calculated that 7 per cent of all heart attacks could have been averted by taking up cycling and keeping it up on a regular basis. Those who commuted to work by bicycle were up to 19 per cent less likely to develop coronary heart disease, they found. But people who took up biking during the first five years of the study had about a 24 percent lower risk of developing heart disease, compared with those who took up the activity later on.
Researcher Dr Kim Blond said, “Because recreational and commuter biking is an easy way to make physical activity part of one’s routine in a non-structured and informal fashion, based on the results, public health authorities, governments and employers ought to consider initiatives that promote bicycle riding as a way to support large-scale cardiovascular disease prevention efforts.’
A second study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that middle-aged and elderly adults who biked to work were less likely than non-bikers to be obese, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or pre-diabetes. That study, led by Lund University in Sweden, followed more than 20,000 people in their 40s, 50s and 60s over 10 years. They found that active commuters were 15 per cent less likely to be obese, 13 per cent less likely have high blood pressure, 15 per cent less likely to have high cholesterol and 12 per cent less likely to have pre-diabetes or diabetes.
Dr Pual Franks, who led the study, said, “The really good news here is that it’s never too late to benefit from an active lifestyle.”
Source: Daily Mail