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Bicycling and Walking Help Control Weight

The researchers examined 18,414 healthy, premenopausal women who had participated in the Brigham and Women's Hospital Nurses' Health Study II. Participants answered questionnaires between the years of 1989 and 1005 on topics including time spent doing various physical activities, including bicycling and walking. The results showed that women of any weight benefited from bicycling in terms of weight management, and that just a small, 5-minute increase in daily biking time helped prevent them from gaining weight. Walkers also benefited but had to increase their daily walking time more, by 30 minutes, to get the same weight management results. In addition, they had to walk at least 4.8 km/hour to get these benefits.

Looking at the women's data over the years, the scientists found that participants gained an average of 9.3 kilograms over the 16-year period of the study. Women who cycled more than four hours per week in 2005 were 26% less likely to gain weight than those who cycled less. Those women who were overweight and obese and who cycled two or three hours per week were 56% less likely to gain weight.

Rania Mekary, a research associate at Harvard's Department of Nutrition says, "This study shows that more bicycling predicts less weight gain. Small daily increments in bicycling helped women control their weight. But the more time women spent bicycling, the better. Women with excess weight appeared to benefit the most. This is encouraging for women with weight problems because they could substitute bicycling for slow walking or car driving.'

The researchers call for cities and towns to have policies that not only endorse dietary guidelines, but also provide sidewalks, bike lanes, and comfortable places to cycle and walk, to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

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