Cycling to work is as effective on the flab as going to the gym

A new study from Copenhagen shows that those cycling to work burn as much fat as those who go to the gym to sweat off the flab.

Barring the car exhausts, cyclists generally know they are fitter and healthier than their fellow road users in the cars that are belching fumes in cyclists’ faces. While inhaling carcinogenic dust and other by-products of fossil combustion affects everyone in London, the research from Copenhagen suggests that you will be as slim and healthy as you would by using a gym five days a week.

Research method

The University of Copenhagen researchers gathered together 130 people who had a BMI of 25 – 35 who were resident in the Greater Copenhagen area. A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight while over 30 is obese. They were split into four groups:

  • The first group cycled to work and back, an average of 14km round trip
  • One group did high intensity gym work five times a week.
  • Another did low intensity gym work five times a week
  • The final group was the ‘control group’ who didn’t change their habits.

After six months the researchers came back and measured the results.

Research results

The results were very good for the cyclists. They lost an average of 4.2 kilos over the six months. Those who went to the gym lost a little more – 4.5kg – but this wasn’t found to be statistically significant over cycling.

Those who engaged in low intensity gym work lost 2.6kg each, while the control group lost no weight at all.

Does work come before life?

Your writer puts the quest for income above his health. His commute is down the stairs via the espresso machine to his desk. He and his partner regularly work quite obscene hours as they strive to save for a better future. He understands the guy who drives to work every day, putting aside their worries about higher blood pressure and having to buy clothes with a bigger waist than they might otherwise desire. Every so often however there is good sense in the media about how a commute of a similar time to going by car (ie by bike) might tackle the nagging worries about the long-term health effects of commuting by car.

The long-term health effects of a sedentary lifestyle are well documented. Diabetes can affect anyone. Heart attacks aren’t pleasant and having a miserable old age isn’t exactly the best way to spend your autumn years. With the short-term effects of getting out of your car and onto your bike proven, might it make sense to make that change? As to the fumes? Your body will be better equipped to fight any nasties that hit you from London’s foul air and in getting on your bike you’ll incrementally reduce the effects for everyone else!


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