ASPH - Association of Schools of Public Health

07/13/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/14/2017 09:21

Minnesota: Cycling Reduces Risk Factors for Heart Disease, Diabetes

Bicycling is widely used by people to be physically active, explore interesting areas, and commute to work. Now, a new University of Minnesota School of Public Health study offers more reason for people to ride by showing that just a few trips a week can lower their risk of developing chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

[Photo: Mr. Aaron Berger]

'This is the first study in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area looking at how bicycling relates to specific diseases,' said lead author and PhD student Mr. Aaron Berger. 'Minneapolis/St. Paul has been hailed as one of the top biking communities in the country, and biking here is backed by major public investments. This study allows us to show policymakers how those investments are being paid back to the state through healthier residents.'

The study, which is co-authored by Dr. Mark Pereira, professor, was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The results showed people who took just three bicycle trips per week had 20 percent fewer risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. They also found that those who bike more frequently are achieving better health than those who ride less frequently.

'Our results suggest that bicyclists don't just appear to be healthier because they're more physically active in general than non-bicyclists,' said Mr. Berger. 'We adjusted for the other kinds of physical activity people do, which means the findings show that at any given level of physical activity, adding in bicycle trips reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.'

'Our study findings may have broad public health implications,' said Dr. Pereira. 'Most people do not live within walking distance to work or shopping centers, and therefore, bicycling may play a unique role in an active lifestyle.'

Health care professionals often advocate for a more active lifestyle for their patients, and Mr. Berger suggests that biking could be a great method to recommend.

'Once you own a bike, active transportation is very inexpensive, as well as a highly efficient way to combine healthful physical activity with time already spent commuting,' said Mr. Berger. 'For people who don't live too far from work, biking instead of driving could save time, especially given traffic or parking.'

Tags: Minnesota