Walk to Work for Your Heart

Active travel to work can reduce chance of developing cardiovascular risk factors

(RxWiki News) Besides saving money on gas and avoiding traffic jams, walking or biking to work may have considerable health benefits.

A recent study found that people who walked or cycled to work were significantly less likely to be overweight or obese than people who used private transportation (e.g., drove or took a taxi). They were also less likely to have diabetes.

Notably, the researchers found that many of these health benefits were for people who walked or biked two or more miles to get to work.

"Look for ways to fit physical activity into your lifestyle."

This study was led by Anthony Laverty, MSc, at the Imperial College London in the United Kingdom (UK). The research team examined whether active travel to work was associated with being overweight or obese, having diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure).

The researchers analyzed data from the UK-based study, Understanding Society. The sample included 20,458 employed individuals who were at least 16 years old and under the age of 65.

These participants reported how far they lived from work and how they usually got there, choosing from options including private transportation (driving a car or motorbike, getting a ride or taking a taxi), public transportation (bus/coach, train, metro), cycling and walking.

The participants also reported their height and weight, and whether they had diabetes or hypertension.

Active travel was defined as walking, cycling or taking public transportation. Public transportation was included as a form of active travel because previous research has shown that people who use public transportation to get to work often walk or cycle as well.

The researchers took into account several factors when analyzing their findings, including age, gender, ethnicity, education level, social class and place of residence.

The researchers found that people who used any form of active travel to get to work were significantly less likely to be overweight or obese than people who used private transportation.

Those who walked to work were 40 percent less likely to have diabetes, and people who cycled were 50 percent less likely to have diabetes than those who used private transportation. Walking was found to be associated with a 17 percent smaller chance of having hypertension compared to using private transportation.

The researchers also wanted to determine the amount of walking or cycling that was associated with a smaller chance of obesity, diabetes or hypertension. They found that of the people who walked or cycled, only those who did so for two or more miles had a reduced chance of being overweight or obese and having hypertension.

People who are physically active are less likely to be overweight or obese, which are risk factors for many conditions including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Active travel to work can help people get the recommended 150 minutes of weekly moderately intense physical activity set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The findings of this study suggest that active travel to work can have health benefits if individuals are traveling greater distances.

The study's authors concluded that increasing active travel to work could serve as a strategy to prevent obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

This study was published on August 6 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The authors reported no competing interests.

Review Date: 
August 10, 2013