Cycling Linked to Longer Life in People With Type 2 Diabetes

Bicycle riding may help people with diabetes live longer, new research suggests.

Among more than 7,000 adults with diabetes in 10 Western European countries followed for about 15 years, those who cycled regularly were significantly less likely to die of any cause or of cardiovascular causes, even after accounting for differences in factors such as sex, age, educational level, diet, comorbidities, and other physical activities.

“The association between cycling and all-cause and CVD [cardiovascular disease] mortality in this study of person[s] with diabetes was of the same magnitude and direction as observed in the healthy population,” wrote Mathias Ried-Larsen, PhD, of the Centre for Physical Activity Research, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, and colleagues. The findings were published online July 19, 2021, in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In an accompanying Editor’s Note, JAMA Internal Medicine editor Rita F. Redberg, MD, and two deputy editors said that the new data add to previous studies showing benefits of cycling, compared with other physical activities. “The analysis from Ried-Larsen and colleagues strengthens the epidemiologic data on cycling and strongly suggests that it may contribute directly to longer and healthier lives,” they wrote.

Redberg, of the University of California, San Francisco, told this news organization: “I think the number of cyclists grew greatly during pandemic, when there was little auto traffic, and people did not want to take public transportation. Cities that add bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes, see an increase in cyclists. I think Americans can cycle more, would enjoy cycling more, and would live longer [by] cycling, to work and for pleasure.”

Redberg disclosed that she is “an avid cyclist and am currently on a bike ride in Glacier National Park. … This group [Climate Ride] raises money for more bike lanes, promotes climate change awareness, has paid for solar panels at Glacier, and more.”

However, Redberg and colleagues also “recognize that cycling requires fitness, a good sense of balance, and the means to purchase a bicycle. We also understand that regular cycling requires living in an area where it is reasonably safe, and we celebrate the installation of more bike lanes, particularly protected lanes, in many cities around the world.”

But, despite the limitations of an observational study and possible selection bias of people who are able to cycle, “it is important to share this evidence for the potentially large health benefits of cycling, which almost surely generalize to persons without diabetes.”

Cycling Tied to Lower All-Cause and CVD Mortality

The prospective cohort study included 7,459 adults with diabetes from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. All were assessed during 1992-1998 and again in 1996-2011, with a mean follow-up of roughly 15 years. During that time, there were 1,673 deaths from all causes, with 811 attributed to CVD.

Compared with no cycling, those who reported any cycling had a 24% lower risk of death from any cause over a 5-year period, after adjustment for confounders and for other physical activity. The greatest risk reduction was seen in those who reported cycling between 150-299 minutes per week, particularly in CVD mortality.

In a subanalysis of 5,423 individuals with 10.7 years of follow-up, there were 975 all-cause deaths and 429 from CVD. Individuals who began or continued cycling during follow-up experienced reductions of about 35% for both all-cause and CVD mortality, compared with those who never cycled.

Redberg and colleagues added that “there are environmental benefits to increasing the use of cycling for commuting and other transport because cycling helps to decrease the adverse environmental and health effects of automobile exhaust.”

They concluded: “As avid and/or aspiring cyclists ourselves, we are sold on the mental and physical benefits of getting to work and seeing the world on two wheels, self-propelled, and think it is well worth a try.”

The study work was supported by the Health Research Fund of Instituto de Salud Carlos III; the Spanish regional governments of Andalucía, Asturias, Basque Country, Murcia, and Navarra; and the Catalan Institute of Oncology. The Centre for Physical Activity Research is supported by a grant from TrygFonden. Ried-Larsen reported personal fees from Novo Nordisk. Redberg reported receiving grants from Arnold Ventures; the Greenwall Foundation; and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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