Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of commuter cycling on physical performance. Eighty-seven male and 35 female employees volunteered to cycle regularly to their work.
Methods: Sixty-one participants went commuter cycling for 1 yr (cycling group); the others cycled only in the second half year (control group). A maximal exercise test on a cycle ergometer was carried out at the start of the study, after 6 months, and after 1 yr to measure maximal external power (Wmax) and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max).
Results: After the first 6 months of commuter cycling, with a mean single trip distance of 8.5 km and a mean frequency of more than three times a week, a significant increase of 13% was found in the Wmax per kilogram body weight (Wmax x kg(-1)) in both sexes of the cycling group. The improvement in VO2max x kg(-1) was significant for the male participants (6%) but not for the female participants (-2%). At the end of the second half year, the control group also showed a mean gain in Wmax x kg(-1) of 13%. Their VO2max x kg(-1) declined in the first half year, but this was counteracted in the second half year. A dose-response relationship was found between two independent variables and the physical performance; the lower the physical performance at the start of the study and the higher the total amount of kilometers cycled, the higher the gain in Wmax. For subjects with a low initial fitness level, a single trip distance of only 3 km turned out to be enough to improve physical performance.
Conclusion: Commuter cycling can yield much the same improvement in physical performance as specific training programs.