A New Prescription for Preventing Type 2 Diabetes: Cycling

Researchers found health benefits even for those who started cycling close to retirement.

A study from Denmark finds that riding a bicycle to work—or just for recreation—can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Researchers reporting in PLOS Medicine found that the time adults spent cycling, the less likely they were to develop T2D. The population studied were 24,000 men and 27,000 women who joined the study between ages 50 and 65 years old.

Those in the study self-reported both commuter and recreational cycling habits, and the results were compared with health registries for T2D incidence. After 5 years, biking patterns were evaluated a second time.

Those who made biking a habit, rather than just an occasional activity, had the least chance of developing T2D. Participants who began cycling regularly had a 20% reduced risk for T2D than those who did not bike at all.

The best news of all? Those who started cycling regularly after the study began—meaning after age 50—still had lower risk of T2D than those who didn’t bike. “This suggests that it is not too late to gain the benefits of taking up cycling, even in the years approaching retirement,” according to a summary on PLOS Medicine.

The authors note that one of the challenges of replacing commuting by car with cycling is having the infrastructure to support the change. A population health strategy that sought to promote cycling for diabetes prevention would have to address this issue. Studies of walking, for example, show that those who walk more either have no choice or have safe, convenient places to do so, according to the summary.

Reference

Panter J, Ogilvie D. Cycling and diabetes prevention: practice-based evidence for public health action [published online July 12, 2016]. PLOS Medicine. doi: 10.1371/journal.prmed.1002077.