People who commute to work via cycling or walking have lesser body fat percentage and body mass index than those who commute via car, a new study reveals.
The study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology was conducted by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and is believed to be the largest analysis of the health benefits of active commuting. It has been funded by the UK Medical Research Council. The researchers examined data from more than 150,000 people from the UK Biobank data set, a large, observational study of 500,000 individuals aged between 40 and 69 in the United Kingdom.
For the average man in the sample, cycling to work rather than driving was associated with a weight difference of 5 kg or 11 lbs. For the average woman in the sample, the weight difference was 4.4 kg or 9.7 lbs.
After cycling, walking to work was associated with the biggest reduction in BMI and percentage body fat than those who drive to work. For both cycling and walking, greater traveling distances were associated with more significant reductions in BMI and percentage body fat.
People who only used public transport were also observed to have lower BMI than car-users as did commuters who combined public transport with other active methods.
“Physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of ill health and premature mortality,” said lead author, Dr Ellen Flint. “In England, two-thirds of adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity. Encouraging public transport and active commuting, especially for those in mid-life when obesity becomes an increasing problem, could be an important part of the global policy response to population-level obesity prevention.
“Compared with commuting by car, we found that public transport, walking and cycling, or a mix of all three, are associated with reductions in body mass fat percentage – even when accounting for demographic and socioeconomic factors. Many people live too far from their workplace for walking or cycling to be feasible, but even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport can have an important effect.”