Jama logoPreviously we had reported that walking or bicycling may enhance physical health. A ground-breaking study by the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston ascertained that bicycling and brisk walking are linked with less weight gain among pre-menopausal women. This finding is predicted to be especially true in overweight and obese women. Experts further clarify that the benefits of brisk walking may alter from slower walking.

The investigators mentioned that the United States encompasses 66 percent of adults that are either overweight or obese. While 16 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, 34 percent are reported to face a heightened risk of being overweight. The authors revealed that from a total of the commuting population in the U.S. only 0.5 percent aged 16 and older ride bicycles. From this only a total of 23 percent females ride bicycles.

The study authors shared, “To our knowledge, research has not been conducted on bicycle riding and weight control in comparison with walking. Our objective was to assess the association between bicycle riding and weight control in pre-menopausal women.”

The investigators under the guidance of Anne C. Lusk, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston examined 18,414 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II. This study is still ongoing and includes more than 116,600 U.S. female nurses who were aged 25 to 42 when the study began in 1989. For the latest analysis, the authors detailed women who were premenopausal through 2005 and aimed on the weight change in participants between 1989 and 2005.

The authors explained, “The results appeared to be stronger in women with excess baseline weight compared with lean women. The mean [average] weight gain was the smallest in women who engaged in four hours a week or more of bicycling compared with women who bicycled for less time. The benefits of brisk walking, bicycling and other activities were significantly stronger among overweight and obese women compared with lean women, whereas slow walking continued to show no benefit even among overweight and obese women.”

In 1989 the study enlightened that while 50 percent of the women spent time slow walking and 39 percent walked briskly, 48 percent women registered to prefer spending time by riding a bicycle. By 2005 an average amount of participants spent more time walking briskly and some time walking slowly. But very less amount of time was utilized in bicycling. Also a five time elevation in sitting at home was noted as compared to time spent in total activity.

The investigators ascertained that though women did not bicycle in 1989 they did increase their bicycling by 2005. Such women gained weight even when they were riding for at least five minutes daily. But a decline in weight gain was noted with greater duration of bicycling. After thorough comparisons, it appeared that women who bicycled for more than 15 minutes a day in 1989 but decreased their time spent in riding by 2005 had gained weight.

The investigators added, “Unlike discretionary gym time, bicycling could replace time spent in a car for necessary travel of some distance to work, shops or school as activities of daily living. Bicycling could then be an unconscious form of exercise because the trip’s destination, and not the exercise, could be the goal.”

Normal-weight women bicycling more than four hours a week in 2005 were compared to those who did not bicycle at all. It was then reported that the normal-weight women faced very less chances of gaining more than 5 percent of their baseline body weight. The study has apparently identified a unique relationship between increased time spent bicycling in 2005 and odds of weight gain.

The study is published in the June 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.