Cycling may reduce risk of early death in people with diabetes | Danish Diabetes and Endocrine Academy
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Cycling may reduce risk of early death in people with diabetes

Cycling may reduce risk of early death in people with diabetes -

‘If we saw similar effects from a new drug treatment for type 2 diabetes with few side effects, it would arouse a great deal of interest and probably have a big impact on treatment guidelines.’

So says Mathias Ried-Larsen when we ask him how big a health benefit from cycling he and his colleagues have found in a new study. ‘Is it worth pursuing?’

‘In the study, we saw that about 8 people in 100 with diabetes who cycled died over a 10-year period. The corresponding figure for people who didn’t cycle was just over 10 deaths per 100 people. So, for every 100 people with diabetes who cycled, 2 fewer died over a 10-year period – and that is worth pursuing’, he says.

“Get cycling
And keep going!” 

Mathias Ried-Larsen - a Senior Researcher with the TrygFonden Centre for Physical Activity Research (CFAS) at Rigshospitalet and Associate Professor at the University of Southern Denmark’s Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics (DSSCB) - and his colleagues are the first in the world to demonstrate that cycling is associated with a reduction in the excess mortality that goes with diabetes.

They have found that:

- Over a 15-year period during which 7,500 participants from 10 West European countries were followed, people with diabetes who cycled at the beginning of the study had on average a 20-25% lower risk of early death than those who reported that they did not cycle.

- Those who did not cycle at the start of the study, but who began cycling during it, had a 32% lower risk of premature mortality from all causes and a 47% lower risk of cardiovascular death than those who did not cycle at all.

- Stopping cycling was not associated with benefit in terms of mortality from either cardiovascular disease or other disease compared to those who did not cycle.

- The favourable effects appear to be achieved by cycling for as little as 1 hour per week. And the effect seems to be independent of other physical activities.

So, Mathias Ried-Larsen’s message is clear:

More cycling is associated with lower mortality.

So get going.

And keep going!

Mathias Ried-Larsen says it was no surprise to the researchers that cycling is linked with lower mortality, but it is very surprising that taking up cycling at a relatively late age may have such a big positive effect on health.

“For every 100 people with diabetes who cycled, 2 fewer died over a 10-year period – and that is worth pursuing.”

‘And the really good thing is that a great many people, including people with diabetes who find it difficult to be physically active, are able to cycle – especially in Denmark, the Netherlands and other countries with good, safe infrastructure’, he adds.

His message is that health service staff providing treatment can use the results to have a conversation with people with diabetes who want to be more physically active.

‘It can be easier to change your lifestyle when you can implement it in your daily routine. Cycling could really be seen as an alternative way of getting some activity into the daily routine for those who don’t want to do something like go to a gym or sports club and who can’t see themselves in that kind of setting. That’s the good news’, he says.

Support from JAMA editorial panel
The research has been published in the highly regarded journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which put out the news together with an Editor’s Note supporting the Danish research finding. The three authors of the Editor’s Note, Rita F. Redberg MD, MSc, Eric Vittinghoff PhD and Mitchell H. Katz MD, write: ‘The analysis from Ried-Larsen and colleagues strengthens the epidemiologic data on cycling and strongly suggests that it may contribute directly to longer and healthier lives. As avid and/or aspiring cyclists ourselves, we are sold on the mental and physical benefits of getting to work and seeing the world on 2 wheels, self-propelled, and think it is well worth a try’.



The study is based on data from 492,763 participants in an investigation of European countries that has been in progress since the beginning of the 1990s.

7,459 participants had diabetes.

The average age of the participants was 55.

They were followed until they died or until 2015, when the last data was taken.

The researchers took account of other factors that could affect the results, such as behaviour, diet and exercise habits. None of this changed the interpretation of the main results.


Article has been published:
1 September 2021

See the Editor’s Note in full here:

Read the article in full here:  

Mathias Ried-Larsen
Group Leader, TrygFonden Centre for Physical Activity Research, Rigshospitalet and  
Associate Professor, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark
Tel.: 21 78 20 87