In times of severe air pollution, cycling to work may seem like a good move to protect the environment. But it’s not the only benefit to it. A new study done by Hasselt University in Belgium and Imperial College London found that cycling can also reduce obesity in an urban population.

The study, published in the journal Environment International, found that daily cyclists enjoy more weight loss than their non-active counterparts. Interestingly, the study also shows that riding an electric bike (e-bike) is associated with a higher (body mass index) BMIas compared to regular cycling.

What this study shows

Cyclists have been found to have the lowest BMI, followed by walkers, public transport users, motorcyclists, users of an electric bike, and finally car drivers, who tend to have the highest BMI. By following over 2,000 urban dwellers over time, the team found that men who switch from car driving to cycling for their daily travel lose on average 0.75 kg of weight, with an average decrease in BMI of 0.24. For women, this was a little bit less.

“Travel by car contributes to obesity and also air pollution. In contrast, bikes burn fat and don’t pollute,” said Audrey de Nazelle, from Imperial College London. The team also found that people who cycle at least occasionally to go to work or to run errands maintained their weight. “Cycling prevents overweight people from gaining additional weight and prevents those, who are of normal weight, from becoming overweight or obese,” said Evi Dons from Hasselt University.

Other benefits of cycling

A previous study by Purdue University in the US found that just 20 minutes of cycling in a day can half your risk of dying from a heart-related disease. Alan Adelman, a family medicine physician at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said that cycling can be an excellent source of cardiovascular conditioning. “It helps prevent weight accumulation and decreases the risk of heart disease and risk for diabetes,” he says.

Another benefit of cycling is that it helps build muscle and burn calories at the same time. “You burn calories on the spot while cycling, and there’s also an enhanced metabolic rate that you develop over a period of time because of muscle mass increase. That muscle mass increase engages more calorie utilisation after a period of time even at a restive stage. So, cycling helps you even after the activity,” says Ryan Cannell, Mr World physique medallist, pro athlete and General Nutriton Center expert.

(With inputs from PTI)

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