Washington DC: You should ditch your car and lace up your walking shoes or choose to cycle or take public transport for your morning commute, if you want to shed those extra kilos, according to a recent study.
Adults who commute to work via cycling or walking have lower body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) measures in mid-life compared to adults who commute via car, the study found.
Even people who commute via public transport showed reductions in BMI and percentage body fat compared with those who commuted only by car. This suggests that even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport journeys may be important.
The study looked at data from over 150000 individuals from the UK Biobank data set, a large, observational study of 500000 individuals aged between 40 and 69 in the UK.
The strongest associations were seen for adults who commuted via bicycle, compared to those who commute via car.
After cycling, walking to work was associated with the greatest reduction in BMI and percentage body fat, compared to car-users. For both cycling and walking, greater travelling distances were associated with greater reductions in BMI and percentage body fat.
Commuters who only used public transport also had lower BMI compared to car-users, as did commuters who combined public transport with other active methods. The effect of public transport on BMI was slightly greater than for commuters who combined car use with other active methods.
The link between active commuting and BMI was independent of other factors such as income, area deprivation, urban or rural residence, education, alcohol intake, smoking, general physical activity and overall health and disability.
Study author Dr. Ellen Flint from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said, "We found that, compared with commuting by car, public transport, walking and cycling or a mix of all three are associated with reductions in body mass and body 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."
Dr Flint adds: "Physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of ill-health and premature mortality. 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."
The study appears in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.