Brisk Walking and Bicycling Help Stave Off Weight Gain


Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have found that brisk walking and bicycling help stave off weight gain over time.

Anne Lusk, PhD and colleagues findings are reported in the June 28 issue of of Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers main objective was to look at bicycle riding and weight control in premenopausal women. They found that walking briskly or bicycling were both associated with less weight gain.

The researchers found that walking is not enough. The pace counts. Walking slowly did not stave off weight gain or help loss weight. Walking a brisk pace (as if you’re late) or bicycling did.

Lusk and colleagues analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study II, a 16 year study which included 18,414 premenopausal women from 1989 to 2005 who were followed with biennial questionnaires.

Overall, there was an average 20.5 pound weight gain among the participants from 1989 to 2005. Those involved in physical activity had less weight gain.


Using the beginning of the NHS as the baseline, only 39% of women reported spending time walking briskly and only 1.2% of women said they biked more than 30 minutes per day.

During the time between 1989 and 2005 for each 30 minute/day increase in activity those who report brisk walking and bicycling had significantly less weight gain (-4 pounds and –3.5 pounds respectively). Slow walking was not seen to be associated with less weight gain.

Women who reported no bicycling in 1989, but over the years increased to as little as 5 min/d in 2005 gained less weight (–1.6 pounds) than those who remained non-bikers.

Normal-weight women who bicycled more than 4 h/wk in 2005 had a lower odds of gaining more than 5% of their baseline body weight (odds ratio, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.56 to 0.98) compared with those who reported no bicycling. Women who were overweight or obese had a lower odds of gaining more weight at 2 to 3 h/wk of bicycling (odds ratio, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.34 to 0.86).

In 2005, the mean time spent sitting at home was about five times higher than the total time spent performing any physical activity (153 versus 30.5 minutes/day). For each 30 minute/day increase in sedentary time at home, there was significantly more weight gain over the study period (+0.5 pounds).

Bicycle Riding, Walking, and Weight Gain in Premenopausal Women; Anne C. Lusk, PhD; Rania A. Mekary, PhD; Diane Feskanich, ScD; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(12):1050-1056.