You may be able to cycle away from cancer and heart disease, say scientists.
The largest study ever conducted on the subject has found that cycling to work could effectively cut your risk of cancer or heart disease in half.
The five-year study of 250,000 commuters in the U.K. compared people with “active” commutes to those who were largely sedentary on their way to work. Researchers found that not only did cycling require no willpower once it became part of subjects’ work routine (unlike going to the gym), but that active commuters lived longer overall.
Over the course of the study, cycling cut the risk of death from any cause by 41 percent, the development of cancer by 45 percent and heart disease by 46 percent. While the participating cyclists biked an average of 30 miles per week, the health benefits were greater the more they cycled.
While walking also slashed participants’ odds of getting heart disease, the benefits were largely noticed in people who walked more than six miles per week.
"This is really clear evidence that people who commute in an active way, particularly by cycling, were at lower risk," said Dr. Jason Gill of the University of Glasgow.
"You need to get to work every day so if you built cycling into the day it essentially takes willpower out of the equation...What we really need to do is change our infrastructure to make it easier to cycle - we need bike lanes, to make it easier to put bikes on trains, showers at work."
While the nature of how the study was conducted makes it impossible to determine a clear cause and effect relationship, researchers say the benefits were still there even after adjusting the data to remove the effects of things like smoking, diet or body mass index.
Other explanations, they surmise, could include the fact that cyclists tend to be leaner and have lower levels of inflammation in their bodies.
"This study helps to highlight the potential benefits of building activity into your everyday life... You don't need to join a gym or run the marathon,” said Clare Hyde from Cancer Research UK.
"Anything that gets you a bit hot and out of breath - whether it's cycling all or part way to work or doing some housework - can help make a difference."
h/t BBC News