Cyckling in Copenhagen

Riding the Bike to Work Is Just as Effective as Leisure Time Exercise

Friday 10 Nov 17


Bente Merete Stallknecht
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Motivating physical activity

This research is done as part of the "Motivating, monitoring, and maintaining physical activity by smartphones in overweight women and men" project.
A new study conducted at the University of Copenhagen shows that inactive, overweight people can lose fat mass just as effectively by riding the bike to work than by exercising in their leisure time. It is a time-effective solution if you want to be physically active, but lead a busy everyday life, the researchers say.

Jump on the bike and enjoy the morning ride to work. If you are overweight and inactive you can lose fat mass just as effectively and fast by starting to take the bike to work as by exercising in a fitness centre. This is the conclusion reached by researchers from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen in a study that has just been published in the scientific journal International Journal of Obesity.

The Tell-Tale Heart Rate Monitor

The study involved 130 overweight people. The participants were divided into four groups of which one had to ride the bike to and from work. Two other groups had to do physical exercise five times a week, one at high intensity, the other at moderate intensity. The last group could make no changes and thus functioned as the control group.

"This is good news to the many overweight people who may not have the time or inclination to join a fitness centre. Our results show that it is possible to combine transport to and from work with effective physical exercise."
Professor and Research Manager in CACHET, Bente Stallknecht.

The groups that cycled and were physically active during their leisure time burned the same amount of calories a week during these activities; only the intensity and form of physical exercise varied. Throughout the test – using the heart rate monitors, among other things – the researchers checked that the participants met the requirements and did the physical exercise they were asked to do.

Cycling Works

After six months all groups, except for the control group, had less fat mass. The fat mass had been reduced by 4.5 kg (compared to the control group) in the group doing high-intensity leisure time exercise, by 2.6 kg in the group doing moderate-intensity leisure time exercise and by 4.2 kg in the group riding the bike to work.  

Hence, all forms of physical exercise are better than the control group, but high-intensity exercise is better than moderate-intensity exercise. And riding the bike to and from work is at least as effective a means for reducing fat mass as exercising during your leisure time. 

Read the entire study: ‘Effects of active commuting and leisure-time exercise on fat loss in women and men with overweight and obesity: A randomized controlled trial

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