While it has long been understood that the "active commuting" process of biking and/or walking are excellent full body daily physical activities that can help prevent heart disease, "few studies have specifically assessed the cardiovascular benefits" of jumping on that bike, until now.
One study in Denmark, as reported in the journal Circulation, was completed with 45,000 Danish adults from ages 50 - 65. Data was collected on how often bikes were ridden, along with other lifestyle factors - diet, smoking, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and the participant's alcohol consumption. Adults who took up cycling within five years of the study had their risk for heart disease drop by 25%.
Researchers also found that participants who used cycling as a way to get to work, or simply for leisure, had "between 11 - 18% fewer heart attacks" in follow up studies that lasted twenty years. The data showed that a thirty minute bike ride per week may offer some protection against coronary artery disease, although those who created the study made it clear that cycling alone does not prevent heart attacks.
A second cycling study, published in Journal of the American Heart Association, was a ten-year research project in Sweden with 20,000 adults within the 40s to 60s age groups. This research factored in the participant's weight, glucose and cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as their bicycle riding habits. After ten years, the chances for obesity dropped 39%. The risk of high blood pressure dropped 11%. The risk of diabetes dropped 18% and the risk of high cholesterol dropped 20%.
Professor Paul Franks, Ph.D., the senior study author from Lund University in Sweden, says that bike riding is a much easier sport to participate in than being at a gym, "going for a jog, or joining a sports team." And in this second study, the researchers didn't pinpoint a particular length of time that one would have to ride a bike in order reduce one's risk. It turns out that any time spent balancing and pumping a bike is very beneficial for your cardiovascular system.