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Determining the intensity and energy expenditure during commuter cycling


Objectives: To determine the intensity and energy expenditure during commuter cycling, and to investigate whether cycling to work at a self-chosen intensity corresponds to recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for health improvement and ACSM recommendations for fitness improvement.

Methods: 18 healthy, untrained middle-aged people, who did not cycle to work, underwent two maximal exercise tests (MT and MT2) in order to measure their maximal heart rate and oxygen consumption (VO2). MT2 was performed 24 weeks after MT. Participants were asked to cycle at least three times a week to their workplace over a one-way minimum distance of 2 km. Data on cycling were recorded in a diary. 12 weeks after MT, a field test was conducted, where participants had to cycle to or from their workplace. The same measurements were taken as during MT as markers of exercise intensity. Metabolic equivalents (METs) and energy expenditure were calculated.

Results: The intensity during the field test was >75% of their maximal aerobic capacity. The mean (SD) MET value was 6.8 (1.9). The energy expenditure during the field test was 220 (115) kcal or 540 (139) kcal/h and 1539 (892) kcal/week. Men consumed significantly (p<0.01) more energy per hour than women.

Conclusion: Commuter cycling at a self-selected intensity meets the CDC and ACSM recommendations for health improvement and the ACSM recommendations for improvement of cardiorespiratory fitness. However, as the participants cycled faster during the field test than during daily cycling, the results should be interpreted with caution.

  • ACSM, American College of Sports Medicine
  • CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • MET, metabolic equivalent
  • MT, maximal exercise test
  • RER, respiratory exchange ratio
  • RPE, rate of perceived exertion
  • Vo2, oxygen consumption
  • VO2peak, the highest VO2 attained during MT over a time interval of 30 s

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