Want to avoid those extra pounds that come with age? Consider hopping on a bike.
A new study reports that women were less likely to gain weight if they walked briskly or if they bicycled compared with women who walked slowly or didn't exercise at all. The benefits of brisk walking -- defined as at least 3 miles a hour -- were already known, enshrined in government recommendations for at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. But bicycling has not been as well studied in terms of weight control.
Anne Lusk of the Harvard School of Public Health led a team that followed more than 18,000 healthy women in the Nurses Health Study II who were 25 to 42 years old in 1989. They answered questions every two years about their health but in 1989 and 2005 they were also asked about walking and bicycling.
After 16 years, the women gained an average of 20 pounds. Very few women said they were bicycling more than four hours a week in 1989, but women of normal weight who said they were bicycling that much in 2005 were 26 percent less likely than inactive women to have gained more than 5 percent of their body weight since 1989. For obese and overweight women, the difference was even greater. If they bicycled two or three hours a week in 2005, they were 46 percent less likely to gain that amount of weight than similar women who didn't exercise.
"Everybody gains weight as they age," Lusk said in an interview. "You put on fewer pounds if you bicycle."
Lusk also contends that bicycling can become an unconscious, gym-free form of exercise, if people got out of their cars and commuted by bicycle instead.
"The trip's destination, and not the exercise, could become the goal," she and her co-authors write in the article appearing in today's Archives of Internal Medicine.
American cities could learn a thing or two from the Netherlands, Lusk said, where bicyclists have their own lanes and traffic signals, separated from cars by more than paint on the pavement. People shop and go to work by bike, whatever the weather is, in large part because roads are built to accommodate bicycles.
"Our hope is the next [American] urban form is a wide, barrier-protected, bicycle-exclusive cycle track, with bicycle signal heads at intersections, " she said.
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer