Cycling to work in middle age dramatically reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack in later life, a major study reveals. As little as 30 minutes a week has a marked effect on the chance of developing coronary heart disease over the next 20 years, researchers found.
The massive heart disease project undertaken by Danish researchers tracked for 20 years a staggering 45,000 people aged between 45 and 60 years when recruited. And the key finding to emerge was that cycling to work in middle age dramatically reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack as you grow older.
People who consistently spent 90 minutes on their bike a week were 24 per cent less likely to develop angina or have a heart attack. And those who spent half an hour cycling a week – even as a leisure activity – had a 16 per cent reduced risk.
The findings on cycling are seen as crucial for public health because a commute by bike is seen as one of the easiest forms of effective exercise for people of any age to build into their daily routine.
Dr Anders Grøntved of the University of Southern Denmark, who headed the study in recent years said it was clear Governments and medics needed to promote cycling more.
“Finding time for exercise can be challenging for many people, so clinicians working in the field of cardiovascular risk prevention should consider promoting cycling as a mode of transportation,” he said.
His team monitored the 45,000 volunteers from 1993 to 2013 and has only just released its findings after an extensive analysis of the data. Of all of those in the study, there were a total of 2,892 heart attacks during the period.
And the researchers estimated that at least 7 per cent of those would have been averted with regular cycling. But for those who took up cycling in the first five years of the 20-year research period, the reduction in the incidence of heart attack was at the upper end of the range; some 24 per cent.