Holsworth Research Initiative

Our research focusses on exercise, physical activity and rehabilitation.

Staff highlight

The impact of endurance cycling on heart health

We are delighted to update everyone on the Holsworth Research Initiative team’s progress on research in endurance cycling and heart health, which we first reported on last month. As the literature says:

  • Endurance cycling is good for us; people who cycle for many years live nearly 20% longer than people who are inactive.
  • While exercise is good for us, and great for the heart, sometimes too much exercise may lead to heart problems.
  • Yet in a time when we struggle to meet public health guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week, we should be aiming to exercise more rather than less.
  • As a result, we must understand what the impact of endurance cycling is on the heart.

Holsworth Research Initiative researcher, Dr Dan Wundersitz and his team of international and La Trobe Rural Health School researchers are investigating the effect of endurance cycling on the heart.

Systematic review and meta-analysis results

Dan and his team diligently sifted through the research and found that endurance cyclists have larger hearts relative to body size than non-athletes, and even when compared to participants in other active sports such as kayakers, canoeists, runners, swimmers, body builders and wrestlers this difference remained.

In addition, they found that endurance cyclists have an increased incidence of cardiac problems compared to non-athletes, but no more than other sport athletes.

MADRIDE results

When the team worked with participants in the MADRIDE, they found that recreational cyclists had a ten-fold increase in the rate of heart arrhythmias after this 21-day endurance cycling event.

Now they want to understand how endurance cycling influences the heart, then look for ways to improve the heart’s ability to handle the stress of endurance cycling so that people can perform physical activity safely.

As Dan says:

Cycling is a great form of physical activity because it is non-weightbearing and enjoyable to perform. Anyone can do it and they can do it at their own pace. In regional and rural areas like Bendigo, there is beautiful scenery and many fantastic cycling trails, which provides an ideal landscape to jump on your bike alone, or with friends and family, and cycle for many hours on end. We already know a lot about the professional athletes heart, however little is known about the general population of recreational riders out there and I want to understand how this form of physical activity influences heart health.

A call for volunteers

Dan and his team are recruiting volunteers for their study. Are you a recreationally active adult living in Bendigo? If you are interested, please get in touch via the contact details in this flyer. You will be tested over a three-week period before, during and after endurance cycling on an exercise bicycle at the La Trobe Flora Hill campus physiology clinic. 

You can read an interview with Daniel about his study in the Bendigo Advertiser.

In-depth reads

D.W.T. Wundersitz, B.A. Gordon, C.J. Lavie, et al., Impact of endurance exercise on the heart of cyclists: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases (2020)

D.Wundersitz, Jacqui Williamson, Voltaire Nadurata, Kimberly Nolan, Carl Laviec, M. Kingsley, The impact of a 21-day ultra-endurance ride on the heart in young, adult and older adult recreational cyclists, International Journal of Cardiology (2019), 286 137-42

Daniel Wundersitz, Voltaire Nadurata, Carl Lavie, Jacqui Williamson, Kimberly Nolan, Michael Kingsley, Response: Arrhythmias 72 hour post strenuous exercise at a time when cardiac troponin was not elevated, International Journal of Cardiology 292 (2019) 138

Daniel Wundersitz is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with Latrobe University Rural Health School in Bendigo Australia. He has worked at La Trobe and Deakin Universities as an academic and as a biomechanist at the Clinical Gait Analysis Service with Monash Health. He leads the human performance research theme for the Holsworth Research Initiative. His research interests are endurance exercise and the heart, workload monitoring in sports, exercise and blood glucose regulation and workplace occupational demand (to name a few).  He loves AFL (Melbourne Football Club) and prefers dogs to cats as dogs are more active.His twitter handle is @DWundersitz