Health & Wellbeing

To shed pounds like an exercise freak, just ride your bike to work

To shed pounds like an exercise freak, just ride your bike to work
Bicycle commuters on the streets of Copenhagen
Bicycle commuters on the streets of Copenhagen
View 1 Image
Bicycle commuters on the streets of Copenhagen
Bicycle commuters on the streets of Copenhagen

We know how it is. You want to lose weight by working out, but there never seems to be time to do it … that, or you just don't like going to the gym. Well, a new study conducted at the University of Copenhagen indicates that bicycle-commuting burns just as many calories as high-intensity exercise sessions, resulting in a similar amount of weight loss.

The study involved 130 overweight, relatively inactive test subjects aged 20 to 45, who were divided into four groups.

For six months, members of one group commuted to and from work by bicycle, cycling an average of 14 km (8.7 miles) per day. Another group instead exercised at moderate intensity for 55 minutes a day/five days per week, while a third group exercised at high intensity for 35 minutes a day/five days per week. The fourth group served as a control, not doing any bike-riding or exercising.

Use of heart rate monitors confirmed that all three active groups were performing their duties, and also indicated that they were all burning a similar number of calories when doing so.

At the end of the six-month period, members of the control group hadn't lost any weight. By contrast, the cycling group experienced an average reduction in fat mass of 4.2 kg (9.3 lb). This was statistically almost identical to the 4.5-kg (9.9-lb) loss of the high-intensity group, and notably better than the moderate-intensity group's 2.6-kg (5.7-lb) weight loss.

"This is good news to the many overweight people who may not have the time or inclination to join a fitness centre, because they also have to pick up their children and cook dinner after work," says Prof. Bente Stallknecht, head of the university's Department of Biomedical Sciences. "Our results show that it is possible to combine transport to and from work with effective physical exercise."

A paper on the research was recently published in the International Journal of Obesity. And if you're wondering about the value of commuting by e-bike, a study conducted last year indicated that riding them still provides a "meaningful amount" of exercise.

Source: University of Copenhagen

Racqia Dvorak
Sure, if you don't mind getting creamed by a driver on their cell phone.
How are you supposed to pick your children up after work if you're riding a bike?
Bob Stuart
Riding in traffic does require new skills, but is as safe as driving, statistically. It also prevents other health problems. Hauling kids is getting easier with e-assist, trailers, and child-pedaled tandems until they can ride independently. One of the best things about cycle commuting is that on a busy day, you exercise harder and burn off the adrenalin naturally. If you look for your work, home, and shops by bike, you can do a fine-grained search, and have them all comfortably close. Your comfortable range is 10% more than last week, so you can get from beginner to bike touring in a year of easy discovery.
@ Kwetla Cargo bikes are the usual answer in the Netherlands where this sort of thing is common.
Bakfiets or Box Bikes - Trike versions can have seats for multiple children (2-6 kids up to about age 10 or so). The Long-John two wheeled types have smaller boxes but one can usually carry 2 kids easily.
Longtail Cargo bikes - most have seating options for 2 kids on the back plus a baby seat on the front.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
I had a good, flat 5 miles of highway along Inyokern Road to the Naval Air Warfare Center, with a mile of dirt on my end and a mile on base. I would walk on the dirt, as it had blow sand holes. The only daunting thing was the southwest wind. If I commuted, as I did in the 70's, where I am now, I would need regenerative braking or a trike with a 10 in. gear, due to 15% grades.
@Kwetla An example of a large bicycling family from 1961
Gary E. Madine
Bob Stuart said it right. For those who might worry about time, commuting by bicycle takes 1.75x longer than commuting by personal motor vehicle. Consider that to be 1x commute time spent exercising for free plus 0.75x time spent overcoming disdain for going to the gym.
@Gary E. Madine, The time to commute will vary by location. In my area (N. VA/DC) I have found cycling is actually faster, but partially since I get to park next to the building and don't have the 5-10 minute walk from the parking lot. I also have a good trail system where I don't have to stop for numerous lights or get stuck behind buses. Getting the fresh air first thing in the morning is also a great benefit. I ride all year, even in the winter, as long as there is no snow/ice.