New Danish research confirms previous evidence that relative intensity is more important in cycling than the duration when it comes to protection of cardiovascular disease.
The study, presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2011 on Monday, showed that men who cycle with fast intensity survived 5.3 years longer than men who cycled with slow intensity. And in men who cycled with moderate intensity survived 2.9 years longer. For women, the figures were 3.9 and 2.2 years longer, respectively. The researchers accounted for other factors including differences in age.
Dr Peter Schnohr of Bispebjerg University Hospital, and colleagues, monitored 5,000 people in Copenhagen, Denmark who cycled regularly for 20 years, found that most benefit was gained from short periods of intense cycling.
“It is the intensity, not the duration, of cycling that is of the greatest importance in relation to all forms of mortality, or longevity, and it is even more pronounced for coronary heart disease,” Schnohr said at the annual ESC meeting held in Paris.
Based on their analysis, the team suggest those who cycled fast for between 30 minutes and an hour each day were likely to live longer than those who cycled less intensely for longer periods each day.
Relative to their slow-cycling counterparts, the fast cyclists had a 56 percent lower risk of dying overall during the study period, which included a 74 percent lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease. The study included people without health problems aged from 20 to 90.
“This study suggests that a greater part of the daily physical activity in leisure time should be vigorous, based on the individuals own perception of intensity,” said Schnohr. “Our group has already published similar results for all-cause mortality in relation to walking.”
Schnohr argued that governments should advise people to take activity in more aggressive bursts as well as moderate stints of exercise.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), cautioned, however, that it could be dangerous for inactive people to suddenly start doing hard exercise. “I would hate the message to get out in the UK that people who are not used to cycling should start doing it short and sharp,” he told The Telegraph.
He added that it was interesting in relation to people who already cycle on a regular basis, but most people in Britain are not that active. “Current guidelines say that you´ve got to do sufficient exercise to get your heart rate up and get slightly breathless,” he said.
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