Pedal power: how cycling combats cancer and heart disease

New research claims that people who walk or cycle to work are significantly less likely to develop cancer and heart disease. Active commuters also appear to be less likely to die from these conditions, even if they do develop them1. Let’s take a closer look.

Pedal power

The science

Researchers at the University of Glasgow conducted a five-year study involving over a quarter of a million people. They asked each person how they usually get to work, and monitored their health over the course of five years. They adjusted the results to take factors such as sex, age, diet, smoking and existing illnesses into account. 

The results of the study show that people who cycle to work are 45% less likely to develop heart disease and 46% less likely to develop cancer. People who cycle to work also have a 52% lower risk of death from heart disease, a 40% lower risk of death from cancer and a 41% lower risk of death from any cause.1 

The study also finds that walking is linked to lower rates of heart disease. People who walk to work are 27% less likely to develop heart disease and have a 36% lower risk of dying from it. However, there wasn’t any evidence of walking reducing the chances of developing or dying from cancer.1 

The findings also back up existing evidence showing that active commuting reduces the risk of developing and dying from cancer and heart disease.1

What it means

This is the most conclusive evidence so far that an active commute is one of the positive things an able-bodied person can do for their health. It’s part of the everyday routine, so turning a commute into a workout is one of the easiest ways to get regular exercise. 

It can be hard to fit exercise into a hectic schedule. Commuting by bike or on foot is a simple way to get the recommended 150 minutes of activity per week, as cycling and fast walking both count as moderate-intensity exercise2.

Pedal power

This research also shows the benefits of exercise outweigh the perceived downsides of active commuting, such as exposure to air pollution or the risk of an accident. Active commuting has plenty of other health benefits.

  • Many people find that walking, cycling or running to work wakes them up, and sets them up for a more enjoyable and productive day 
  • Commuting under your own steam, or taking public transport, takes cars off the road and reduces congestion and air pollution, delivering even greater health benefits
  • Taking regular exercise burns calories and can help with weight loss, reducing the risk of other health conditions such as type 2 diabetes which are linked to obesity. Regular cyclists in particular are known for their lean frames and being lightweight

How to start

If your workplace is close enough to your home to allow you to walk or cycle there, then why not give it a try? Alternatively, you could combine a train ride or drive with some active commuting by doing a manageable part of your journey on foot or by bike. Would you like to get started with cycling? Find out more here.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 or
make an online enquiry.


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