Great Minds Ride a Bike
I offered to return someone’s bike to the rental shop in Newport, Rhode Island yesterday as a favour, only to arrive to a closed shop. I ended up on a serendipitous cycling tour of Newport as a result. I rarely cycle at home and have always been too afraid to cycle around Dublin city but have now decided to reconsider my stance.
According to a study published by the British Medical Journal in April of this year, cycling to work may lengthen lifespan. It is linked to a substantial reduction in the risk of developing and dying from cancer or heart disease.
A research group from the University of Glasgow analysed data from over a quarter of a million people from the U.K.’s Biobank. Over the course of 5 years, new cases of heart attacks, cancer and deaths were studied and then “related to their mode of commuting”.
According to Glasgow University’s Professor of Cardiometabolic Health, Jason Gill, “those who cycled the full length of their commute had an over 40% lower risk of heart disease, cancer and overall mortality over the 5 years of follow-up”.
While walking was also associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, the risk of cancer-related death appeared to be no lower than in those who commuted by car or public transport.
To be fair, this could be because walkers typically commute shorter distances than cyclists and walking is generally undertaken at a lower level of intensity.
In addition, as with the interpretation of all studies of this ilk, the difference between association and causation must be borne in mind. Association is the existence of a link between two phenomena, demonstrated by one tending to vary according to variations in the other. In this instance, the results may be attributable to the healthier lifestyles of cyclists in general. On the other hand, causation is a special case of association, where changes in one phenomenon directly cause changes in another.
But hey, even if it is mere association, I’ll opt to be healthy by association any day!