Bicycling to work comes with a lot of benefits: It’s good for your body. It’s good for the earth. And it’s great for your mental health. And now, there is one more reason to take to the saddle—type 2 diabetes prevention.
Scientists have known for a long time that exercise can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Being active helps your body control blood sugar better and also prevents the kind of weight gain that can be a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
Still, many people believe that it’s “too late” to start an exercise program and improve their health. New research, however, should give middle-aged and older adults confidence that starting an exercise program at any age can help protect you from type 2 diabetes.
The study, by Danish researchers looked at people between the ages of 50 and 65. It found that those who cycled for fun or to work had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who did not cycle. The higher volume of cycling, the lower the risk—with bike commuters having the lowest risk of all.
And the best part? Even those who took up cycling after the study began (at age 50+) had a lower risk of developing diabetes than non-exercisers.
Starting a bike commuting habit isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. The first thing to do is to take an assessment of your bike commuting opportunity and do some problem solving.
1. How far is your workplace from home? If it’s 6 miles or under, bike commuting becomes a little easier. If it’s further, consider strapping your bike to your car and driving to a safe place to leave your car, then hopping on your bike for the final commute in. Or, ride your bike from your home to a public transit stop that allows bikes (many towns have equipped their busses and commuter rail likes with accommodations for bikes).
2. Does your office have a changing room or shower? If not, some can get away with a change into fresh clothes and some rudimentary attention with moistened towelettes or baby wipes.
3. Is your bike equipped for commuting? A rack and basket or pannier will save your back from having to carry necessities in a backpack while riding. And it goes without saying that lights are a must if you commute during dark hours.
If you’re brand new to bike commuting, don’t feel like you have to start out all at once—ease into it with a bike trip or two per week to start. But be careful; once you catch the cycling bug, it can turn into a lifelong passion.