Keen cyclists volunteer to get on the bike for heart health research

Research participant Jane is a glass-half-full person. Example A: They’re not bin chickens on her jersey, they’re ibis. And, almost halfway into a six-hour cycling session in the campus physiology lab, she’s still smiling!

Jane is one of 30 volunteers taking part in important research in Bendigo that asks, are recreational cyclists at greater risk of heart arrhythmia?

The question was posed by Bendigo Health, after an increasing number of local weekend warriors were presenting at the hospital with cardiac issues.

Holsworth Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Daniel Wundersitz’s work will help determine cycling’s effects on the heart, and if there is a point where the exercise stops being safe, and starts putting people at risk.

Jane, who is a vet from the Bellarine Peninsula, wants to encourage others to ride for health and wellbeing. She sees the study as a great way to help people do so safely – herself included.

“I was involved in a trial at the Baker Institute earlier this year as a control in a study and I found that when my heart was under duress, I had an arrhythmia,” she says.

“Then I saw Daniel’s article online, calling for recreational cyclists to take part in his research so he can find out, do they have more of a tendency towards cardiac arrhythmia than others?

“I thought I’d help out. I’ve got a PhD and I know enlisting volunteers and collecting data can be difficult.”

In Daniel’s case, he was inundated with cyclists wishing to help. Funding through the Holsworth Research Initiative allowed him to enlist around ten per cent of those willing riders.

Dr Daniel Wundersitz

“I’ve had interest from all over Australia and internationally as well for this study being run in Bendigo,” Daniel says.

“I have met so many wonderful people and it’s been great to hear their cycling adventures from all around the world.

“Cyclists love data and my study provides them with a lot of it! Everyone has been extremely keen to get their numbers, they’ve really pushed themselves during the six hours cycling.”

Jane cycles for one-to-three hours a week, with the occasional six-hour ride around the bay. She’s been a fan of the treadlie since inheriting her older brother’s bike at the age of eight.

With impressive fitness, Jane is a great advocate for leading a healthy and active life. She says cycling is a terrific way to alleviate Australia’s obesity epidemic, and Daniel’s study will help people take part safely.

“I’m fitter this year than I have been in a long time, and I feel so much better for it, mentally and physically,” she says, adding there’s extra benefits to cycling; the social scene, the coffee rides and the fashion – cue that cute jersey.

The testing saw Jane ride six by 50-minute cycling sessions, with ten minutes’ break in between. For the five days prior and post the session she’s required to wear an ECG monitor 24-7, all in the name of science.

Jane says it’s been a great thing to focus on during and after the latest lockdown. “This is a bit of an outing for me, coming to Bendigo,” she says. “I’ve got quality company, I’m getting exercise, and I’m being fed – how good is this!”

Jane is pictured here in the campus lab with Holsworth Research Initiative research officer Blake Collins, who is assisting Daniel with the study.

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