Study finds correlation between biking to work and lower cancer rates

A new study out of the United Kingdom has found a correlation between regularly biking to work and significantly decreased incidences of heart disease and cancer.

Published Wednesday in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) the study, titled “Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study,” studied data compiled over five years from more than 250,000 U.K. citizens aged 40-69.

The data was collected from the U.K. Biobank during a three-year period from 2007 to 2010 in 22 health assessment centers in the U.K. During the data collection, study participants indicated how they commuted to and from work on a daily basis (walking/biking versus riding a bus/driving).

biking to work
The researchers suggest integrating more active commuting into your daily routine. Photo: Courtesy of Nubia Navarro/Pexels

Following that data collection, the study followed up with 263,450 participants over a five-year period to measure health outcomes, including deaths. The results were staggering.

Of the population studied, those who regularly cycled to work saw a 41 percent reduction in the risk of death from any cause, observed a 45 percent decrease in the incidence of cancer and a decrease in the incidence of heart disease by 46 percent. The cyclists in the study averaged around 30 miles a week.

“This is really clear evidence that people who commute in an active way, particularly by cycling, were at lower risk,” Dr. Jason Gill of the University of Glasgow, who helped undertake the study, told BBC News about the results. “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, [we need] to make it easier to put bikes on trains, [we need to] take showers at work.”

biking to work
Those involved with the study are calling for increased bike infrastructure Photo: Courtesy of Tim Gouw/Pexels

The study doesn’t mean that cycling specifically necessarily causes lowered cancer rates: As Popular Science notes, causation and correlation are two different things in scientific studies.

What it does point out, however, is that there is an extremely strong correlation between increased physical activity and health benefits, and that biking to work is a great way to achieve those benefits.

Read more about bike commuting

5 tips to help you start bike commuting
Study: Less than 1 hour of cycling per week significantly reduces aging
Study suggests cycling not only boosts health but local economy