Cycling Intensity is Important for Longevity, Not Duration

A new study from Denmark shows that cycling intensity has a strong relationship with life expectancy and cycling duration appears to have little, if any.[1]

Here’s study’s data on intensity and duration’s association with life expectancy:

And the data for each group showing the stronger association intensity has with reducing risk of death:

The high intensity cycling group had the lowest risk of all-cause mortality and an increase of 4-5 years of life expectancy compared to the low intensity group, and the difference was highest in risk of CHD related death.

The difference in all-cause mortality from increasing cycling duration was small or non-existant among all groups.

The authors were careful to state that, although intensity has a stronger relationship, we don’t really know what is the optimal duration, if it exists at all. But it appears that less than 30 minutes of cycling was enough to drop the high intensity group’s risk of death from coronary heart disease to less than a fifth of the low intensity group (the largest difference in the study). Interestingly, risk of death from CHD among the high intensity group crept upwards among those cycling more than an hour per day, but stil remained lower than the low and average intensity groups. The average intensity group saw a smaller difference of less than half the risk of death from CHD while also cycling less than 30 minutes a day when compared to the low intensity group.


I want to say “I told you so,” but let’s remember this is an observational study that isn’t powerful enough to show cause (however, it appears that they did do their best to adjust for differences between the groups). This does provides evidence that high intensity cycling longer than an hour per day may not be as dangerous as we thought, although not optimal. I doubt they were anywhere near the amount of training that professionals engage in though. Still, it certainly does add to the growing body of evidence that short, intense cycling is best way to train for health and longevity. Remember this study the next time you’re thinking about heading out for a fast 50!


1. Schnohr P, Marott JL, Jensen JS, Jensen GB. Intensity versus duration of cycling, impact on all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality: the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2011 Feb 21. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 21450618.

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