Bicycles are a popular exercise for those in the west, and one of the first things you notice when you first start riding a bike is that it’s incredibly efficient.
It’s easy to get up and down stairs, cross busy roads and climb hills.
With that said, bike training can be challenging, so a few years ago, researchers from the US and UK began working on a way to get people to move more.
They call it “walking with a bike”.
The researchers used data from a nationwide survey of nearly 12,000 people and showed that people who walked on a bike at least once a week were less likely to be obese and have diabetes, compared to those who did not.
The same is true of exercise: The researchers found that those who exercised daily were also less likely than those who walked less than once a month to be overweight and to have heart disease.
“In the U.S., we have over 3 million people who walk on a bicycle,” says Daniel Ziegler, a research fellow at the University of Illinois, who was not involved in the study.
“We’ve been seeing that people with lower levels of physical activity tend to be leaner and healthier, and there’s been a lot of research that shows that those factors tend to increase your health.”
Ziegles team has been using this research to come up with ways to make walking a healthier option.
“I think this research really shows that walking with a bicycle is a great exercise,” he says.
“It’s one of those things that, if you do it regularly, it will make a huge difference.”
In the UK, the UK Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that found that people walking more often had lower blood pressure, a lower risk of heart disease, and a lower incidence of diabetes.
The results of the study were consistent across the different groups.
Zieglers team is working on new research to find out if it’s possible to create a better walking program.
“The problem with cycling is that you don’t have the same exercise capacity, so we need to look at what works for people who have lower physical activity levels,” he explains.
“But walking is the same thing.”
Zigler is currently using the UK’s Walk for Kids programme, which involves encouraging children to exercise regularly.
He’s also using data from the National Health Service’s Exercise in Britain programme to look into how to make cycling more appealing for young people.
“This is the kind of exercise that can help them improve their physical health,” he adds.
For now, Ziegleers team is focused on teaching young people how to walk on their own.
But he hopes the research will eventually lead to better, more effective ways of promoting walking.
“One of the big problems that we’ve seen in the U [U.K.] is that people don’t think about walking when they’re younger,” he tells us.
“If we can get them to think about it as an activity that they can do on their bikes, that’s a big help.
We need to change the way we think about cycling.”
The next step is to get the public to get on the bike more.
“People are always going to be reluctant to do it, but if you get people on bikes, you can change that,” Zieglies says.
It would also be a good idea to use technology to get a better picture of how much exercise people actually get.
Zigels team is currently working on software that can predict exercise habits from the activity level of a bike.
And with all of the new research out there, Zegler thinks that the future will see more and more people getting on bikes.
“Hopefully, we can see more people walking, and that’s good for everyone,” he hopes.