LONDON — Want to live longer? Hop on a bike and ride to work. A new study finds that people who commute to the office by bicycle have a lower risk of death — from any cause.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow found that individuals who walk to work also saw a decreased risk of heart disease, but the chances of dying from cancer for walkers showed no change from people who don’t.
The study examined how 264,000 people — averaging about 53 years old and pulled from a British database focusing on biological information — got to work each day. The participants indicated on a questionnaire their modes of transportation — be it by car, bike, public transportation, or foot. They were also polled on their level of physical activity.
In a follow-up about five years after the study began, researchers then determined which participants had either died or were admitted to a hospital at some point during the study. They determined that the participants who commuted to work by bicycle had the lowest risk of death from any cause and lowest risk of cancer.
People who walked to work only showed a lower risk of heart disease and death compared to the non-active commuters. The reduced risk of cardiovascular disease was only proven, however, if an individual walked at least six miles a week.
People who got to work by motor vehicle, but biked for a portion of the commute also showed some benefit. But those who partially walked and partially went by car or public transportation did not show any benefit.
Of course, the researchers caution that the results are strictly observational, and that cause-and-effect can’t be concluded from this study. “The findings, if causal, suggest population health may be improved by policies that increase active commuting, particularly cycling, such as the creation of cycle lanes, cycle hire or purchase schemes, and better provision for cycles on public transport,” the study notes.
The study was published yesterday in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).