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In 2012, over 371 million people worldwide were estimated to have type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and the prevalence is expected to continue to increase. Physical inactivity is known to be a risk factor for incidence and complications of T2DM. Randomised controlled trials have shown that regular, structured physical activity can lead to a reduction of HbA1c over the short term. Surveys have found that a substantial proportion of the UK population do not meet the recommendations for physical activity. In addition to these worrying figures, the majority of people in the UK are also unaware of these recommendations. Cycling is a non-weight bearing, efficient form of aerobic exercise and active travel may be an effective way to target individuals who see time or opportunity as a barrier to physical activity. Cohort studies performed in several European countries have shown active travel to reduce the risk of developing T2DM and to reduce all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among individuals with T2DM.We suggest that health education programmes be further developed to encourage individuals with T2DM to increase their physical activity. Several initiatives already exist to promote cycling in the general population, and it may be beneficial to utilise patient groups and diabetes charities to inform diabetes patients about the positive effects of cycling and other physical activity on managing their condition. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons.