A new large-scale study published this week has found that regular cycling can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Carried out by the University of Southern Denmark, the study looked at 24,623 men and 27,890 women from Denmark age 50 to 65.
Participants were asked to self-report their cycling habits, including how much they cycled to and from work and how much they cycled just for fun.
The data was then compared with the incidence of type 2 diabetes measured in the Danish National Diabetes Registry.
The results showed that those who cycled regularly were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and the more they cycled each week, the lower the risk was.
The team also found that after re-assessing participants' cycling habits during the five-year follow-up, those who took up habitual cycling during this period, and therefore at a later age, still benefited from a 20% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-cyclists, with lead author of the study Dr. Martin Rasmussen commenting that, "We find it especially interesting that those who started cycling had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, given that the study population were men and women of middle and old age. This emphasizes that even when entering elderly age, it is not too late to take up cycling to lower one's risk of chronic disease."
Although the authors took into account various other lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol and smoking habits, and physical activity outside of cycling, self-reporting can lead to inaccuracies or missing data, and additional factors not taken into account may also affect the results.
However cycling is already known for its many health benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness, a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a lower risk of obesity, and even better sleep, with the findings only adding to the list of health benefits that cycling offers, even later in life.
The results also provide further evidence and support for the development of programs to encourage cycling, with Dr. Rasmussen also adding, "Because cycling can be included in everyday activities, it may be appealing to a large part of the population. This includes people who due to lack of time, would not otherwise have the resources to engage in physical activity."
The study can be found published online in PLOS Medicine.