Leave the car at home for a healthier daily commute

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Commuting to work by walking or cycling and public modes of transport is linked to lower body weight and body fat composition compared with those using private transport.

To reach these results, the researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and UCL investigated the relationship between active commuting and two known markers for obesity – body mass index (BMI) and percentage body fat.

They analysed 7,534 BMI measurements and 7,424 percentage body fat measurements from men and women taking part in Understanding Society. The data was drawn from the representative subsample of wave 2 respondents of UKHLS who provided health assessment data.

Key findings

  • A total of 76% of men and 72% of women commuted to work by private motorised transport.
  • 10% of men and 11% of women reporting using public transport, while 14% of men walked or cycled to work compared with 17% of women. Overall BMI score for men was 28 and 27 for women.
  • Men who commuted via public or active modes had BMI scores around 1 point lower than those who used private transport, equating to a difference in weight of 3kg (almost half a stone) for the average man.
  • Women who commuted via public or active transport had BMI scores around 0.7 points lower than their private transport using counterparts, equating to a difference in weight of 2.5kg (5.5lb) for the average woman.

The researchers say these differences are “larger than those seen in the majority of individually focused diet and physical activity interventions to prevent overweight and obesity.”

Read the research in full: Associations between active commuting, body fat, and body mass index: population based, cross sectional study in the United Kingdom by Ellen Flint, Steven Cummins and Amanda Sacker.

Media coverage

this news has been re-posted from the Understanding Society website