Walking or cycling to work associated with lower risk of cancer and heart disease

A new study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that cycling to work could halve the risk of cancer and heart disease and that any active form of travel to work offers similar health benefits. Although the report does not claim to establish the direct causal links, the five year study of 250,000 commuters in the UK concludes that “cycle commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD, cancer, and all cause mortality. Walking commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD independent of major measured confounding factors. Initiatives to encourage and support active commuting could reduce risk of death and the burden of important chronic conditions.” The five-year study compared people who had an active commute with those who were mostly sedentary in cars and public transport. The report found that regular cycling to work cut the risk of death from any cause by 41 percent, the incidence of cancer by 45 percent and heart disease by 46 percent.

The report also found that the further people cycled the greater the health benefits, although the average cycle to work was around 30 miles per week. People who combined cycling with other forms of transport also enjoyed health benefits. Walking also cut the odds of developing heart disease but the benefit was mostly for people walking more than six miles per week.

“This is really clear evidence that people who commute in an active way, particularly by cycling, were at lower risk,” Dr Jason Gill, one of the researchers, told BBC News. “You need to get to work every day so if you built cycling into the day it essentially takes willpower out of the equation. What we really need to do is change our infrastructure to make it easier to cycle – we need bike lanes, to make it easier to put bikes on trains, showers at work.”

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