Objectives: To investigate associations between modest levels of total and domain-specific (commuting, other utility, recreational) cycling and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Design: Population-based cohort study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study-Norfolk).
Setting: Participants were recruited from general practices in the east of England and attended health examinations between 1993 and 1997 and again between 1998 and 2000. At the first health assessment, participants reported their average weekly duration of cycling for all purposes using a simple measure of physical activity. At the second health assessment, participants reported a more detailed breakdown of their weekly cycling behaviour using the EPAQ2 physical activity questionnaire.
Participants: Adults aged 40-79 years at the first health assessment.
Primary outcome measure: All participants were followed for mortality (all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer) until March 2011.
Results: There were 22 450 participants with complete data at the first health assessment, of whom 4398 died during follow-up; and 13 346 participants with complete data at the second health assessment, of whom 1670 died during follow-up. Preliminary analyses using exposure data from the first health assessment showed that cycling for at least 60 min/week in total was associated with a 9% reduced risk of all-cause mortality (adjusted HR 0.91, 95% CI 0.84 to 0.99). Using the more precise measures of cycling available from the second health assessment, all types of cycling were associated with greater total moderate-to-vigorous physical activity; however, there was little evidence of an association between overall or domain-specific cycling and mortality.
Conclusions: Cycling, in particular for utility purposes, was associated with greater moderate-to-vigorous and total physical activity. While this study provides tentative evidence that modest levels of cycling may reduce the risk of mortality, further research is required to confirm how much cycling is sufficient to induce health benefits.
Keywords: active commuting; active travel; physical activity.