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Research highlights heart benefits of commuter and recreational biking

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Odense, Denmark – People who frequently bike to work or in their free time have a decreased risk of heart disease, according to two studies recently published by the American Heart Association.

For one study, researchers tracked 45,000 adults ages 50 to 65 in Denmark for 20 years. Participants who often biked to work or for recreation experienced 11 percent to 18 percent fewer heart attacks, and those who started and maintained a regimen of biking had a 26 percent lower risk of developing coronary artery disease.

A minimum of 30 minutes of biking each week offers protection against the disease, the researchers said. They also noted that regular bicycling could have prevented more than 7 percent of the 2,892 heart attacks that occurred during the 20-year study time period.

“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,” Kim Blond, lead author and research assistant at the University of Southern Denmark, said in a press release.

The study was published in the November issue of the journal Circulation.

For the second study, researchers tracked more than 23,700 people ages 40 to 69 in Sweden for a decade. At the start of the study, participants who biked to work were:

  • 15 percent less likely to be obese or have high cholesterol levels
  • 13 percent less likely to have high blood pressure
  • 12 percent less likely to have pre-diabetes or diabetes

A decade later, participants who biked or took up the activity at some point were:

  • 39 percent less likely to be obese
  • 11 percent less likely to have high blood pressure
  • 20 percent less likely to have high cholesterol levels
  • 18 percent less likely to have diabetes

Researchers noted that participants who biked more frequently or for longer had “small additional gains in risk reduction,” but said no minimum distance or time biking is needed to lower a person’s risk.

“We found active commuting, which has the additional advantages of being time-efficient, cheaper and environmentally friendly is also great for your health,” Paul Franks, Ph.D., senior study author, professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Lund University in Sweden and guest professor at Umeå University in Sweden, said in the release.

The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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