Pedal power: Study suggests biking to work could help you live longer

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Do you ever think about biking to work? If you do decide to ditch the car, a recent study says it may help extend your life. Researchers in New Zealand find a bike ride to the office can significantly lower your chances of an early death.

Caroline Shaw from the University of Otago says biking commuters lower their mortality rate by 13 percent. The study is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Researchers used data from New Zealand’s Census-Mortality Study, a look at 3.5 million New Zealanders. It’s one of the biggest group studies examining mortality results in relation to work transportation.

“We studied 80 percent of the working-age population of New Zealand over a 15-year period, so it is highly representative,” Dr. Shaw says in a university release.

Still a driving culture

The census finds 80 percent of participants drive to work. Five percent walk and only three percent of New Zealanders bike to their jobs. Shaw finds more men in the country cycle to work, but more women opt to work or jog to the office.

“A higher proportion of younger people cycled, walked or took public transport compared with older people,” the study author adds.

One drawback the transit census has is it lumps all of the commuters together, so researchers can’t tell how physically challenging a person’s trip is.

Biking to work best for your health

The study links the increase in physical activity among bikers to the lower death rate.

Despite also being a form of “active transport,” researchers couldn’t find a connection between walking or taking public transportation and a better lifespan. Shaw argues there’s still cause to promote these activities over driving.

Walking to work has physical-activity-related health benefits other than mortality reduction – including the prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes – and taking public transport has the benefit of emitting less carbon.”

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