People who rode a bike to work or cycled just for fun were less likely to get the illness, researchers found. This was true even for those who only began habitual cycling later in life.
The cohort study, which was led by Martin Rasmussen from the University of Southern Denmark, involved about 24,000 males and 27,000 females from Denmark who were recruited at the age of 50 to 65 years old.
Researchers examined the link between the study participants' self-reported commuter and recreational cycling habits and their type 2 diabetes incidence, which was already measured in the Danish National Diabetes Registry.
In the end, Rasmussen and his team found that participants who biked habitually had lesser chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
The more time these participants spent cycling, the lower their risk for the disease, researchers said.
After five years, the biking habits of participants were re-evaluated. Those who began riding a bike on a regular basis faced a 20 percent reduced risk for type 2 diabetes than participants who did not practice it.
Rasmussen and his colleagues took into account other factors that could have influenced participants' diabetes risk, including diet, waist circumference, history of smoking, alcohol consumption and other forms of exercise.
They acknowledged that other factors could have affected the results of the study, which only discovered an association between risk for type 2 diabetes and bicycling habits, but not a cause-and-effect relationship.
What they found most interesting is the fact that those who started the habit later in life had a lower of risk of type 2 diabetes as well, given that the participants were men and women of middle age and old age.
The results underline that even when a person enters older age, it is not too late to go cycling to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes.
Why Cycling Is Good For Your Health
Rasmussen says cycling can be added to a person's every day routine.
The activity may also be appealing to a huge part of the population, including those who, due to a lack of time, would not have the resources to engage in other forms of physical activity.
The research team concluded that programs that support cycling should be encouraged around the world.
Details of the study were published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
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