Faster cycling can extend life by up to five years

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

HealthBenefits I am sure that by now we all know cycling is a healthy pursuit and probably one of the best types of exercise a person can engage in. But things are getting better still for a study of cyclists in Copenhagen has shown that if you cycle vigorously you can live up five years longer than those cycled at a slower pace.

The 20-year study, involving 5,000 healthy people who cycled every day, found men who cycled quickly survived 5.3 years longer than those cycling the most slowly. For women the figures were 3.9 longer. Men pedalling at an average pace lived 2.9 years longer, women 2.2 years longer. Speed, it would seem, was more important than the duration of the ride.

The researchers in the Copenhagen City Heart Study did not quantify what they mean by “intense exercise” and “vigorous cycling.” Participants were left to say what qualified as vigorous for them.

Relative to slow cyclists, faster cyclists who spent between half hour and a hour on a bike had the best chance of avoiding premature death from any cause (50%), the study found. Average speed cyclists had a cut of 33% in their risk of dying.

A 30 minute session of vigorous cycling saw a 82% cut in the risk of the faster cyclists (men and women) dying from a heart attack. The reduction was slightly less, 75%, for fast cycling that lasted longer. Current recommendations prescribe that every adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity in leisure time, preferably every day of the week.

The findings of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, which were presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Paris, took into account a range of factors such as the number of other sports activities undertaken by the cyclists, Body Mass Index, alcohol intake and blood pressure. The study’s participants were men and women aged 21 to 90 years old living in Copenhagen.

The problem for many of us, however, is, and I am sure I speak for most of us who work at a job, to find those thirty minutes or such for vigorous cycling. In addition to that you also have to have the right area where you can do such vigorous speeds. In most parks this would be a certain NO, NO, due to the fact that, if cycling is allowed, the speed is, theoretically, given as 10 miles per hour or even less.

Having said this, however, I am sure that the simple act of cycling at a speed that is vigorous for you or me will already have its benefits even if we cannot manage the half hour gap.

If, on the other hand, each and every time that we take out the bike to go to work (hopefully), the shops (now that should be the case) or visiting friends – instead of the car – and do that as the best possible speed we more than likely would also qualify.

So, dust of that boneshaker and get healthy. In the process you also benefit the Planet.

© 2011