Middle aged people who cycle cut their risk of developing diabetes by up to 20 per cent, according to new research.
The study shows that those in their 50s and 60s who took up “habitual” cycling had a one fifth lower risk for type 2 diabetes than non-cyclists.
And the risk decreases the longer they spent cycling each week, according to the study.
Researchers said the findings that cycling, especially in late adulthood, reduces diabetes risk means programmes to encourage more people to get on their bike should be encouraged.
Research assistant Martin Rasmussen, of the University of Southern Denmark, said: “Because cycling can be included in everyday activities, it may be appealing to a large part of the population.
“This includes people who due to lack of time, would not otherwise have the resources to engage in physical activity.
“We find it especially interesting that those who started cycling had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, given that the study population were men and women of middle and old age.
“This emphasises that even when entering elderly age, it is not too late to take up cycling to lower one’s risk of chronic disease.”
The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, involved 24,623 Danish men and 27,890 women between the ages of 50 to 65 recruited from 1993 to 1997.
All did not have diabetes and other chronic diseases and underwent a number of assessments, including completing a lifestyle questionnaire also addressing cycling habits.
Five years later they were examined again and it was found 6,779 were diagnosed with diabetes.
The participants were asked whether they did no cycling, cycled just in summer or summer and winter.
Cycling in summer and winter was associated with a significant lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Those who cycled the most weighed less, had slimmer waists, drank less and tended to have healthier diets. They also drank more coffee.
It found there was 2,510 cases of diabetes in those who did no cycling, 1,463 who did up to an hour a week, 1,109 who did up to an hour-and-a-half, 994 who did up to five hours, and 703 who cycled over five hours.
Mr Rasmussen added: “In summary, in this prospective study in a large cohort of Danish men and women, we found that recreational and commuter cycling was associated with a lower risk of type 2, and we observed mostly dose-response relationships.
“Also, cycling all year was associated with a lower risk of type 2 compared to no cycling and seasonal cycling, even after adjustment for total amount of cycling.
“Furthermore, continuation of cycling, as well as initiation of cycling, was associated with a substantial lower risk of type 2 compared to no cycling.
“Because positive associations were found consistently across different approaches to analysing cycling, this adds to the robustness of the findings.
“Based on the results of this study, it seems beneficial to encourage adults of middle and old to engage in commuter and recreational cycling to prevent the development
of type 2 in late adulthood.”