Three Commutes That Lower Risk for Serious Disease and Early Death

A recent study found that cycling, walking and even taking public transportation reduced the risk for serious disease and death. People who drove their cars to work increased their risk for cancer, heart disease and early death, according to research published in The Lancet.

“Active travel is increasingly recognized as an important source of physical activity,” stated the authors of the study. “We aimed to describe associations between commute mode and cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality.”

The scientists studied 300,000 commuters over a 25-year period in England and Wales. They found that people who walk or cycle to work are at lower risk of death or serious illness, compared to those who commute by car, according to Inverse.

“It’s well established that many people don’t get enough physical activity and that has been linked to between 3.2 million and 5.3 million deaths a year worldwide,” noted study authors Richard Patterson at the University of Cambridge, and Anthony Laverty, at the Imperial College of London. “And we know that being physically active leads to many health benefits, including lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancer and even depression.”

Study conclusions:

• Compared to people who drove, those who cycled to work had a 20% lower risk of death overall. They also had a 24% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer. This cohort was also 11% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer.

• Walking to work was associated with a 7% lower risk of having a cancer diagnosis, according to Inverse. But the effect on rates of death from cancer and heart disease was unclear, said the authors. The reason for the lack of data is because walkers were more likely to be less well-off and have more underlying health conditions that countered the positive health benefits.

• Rail commuters had a 10% lower risk of overall death compared to those who drove to work. They had a 21% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 12% lower risk of being diagnosed with cancer. The researchers proposed that most people who used public transportation either biked or walked to their transit stations.

“While many people cannot walk or cycle their entire commute, incorporating some active travel into their journey may be beneficial,” said Patterson and Laverty, who added that if a greater number of commuters supported alternative, active means of getting to and from work, it could lead to other benefits such as improved air quality.

And speaking of air quality, experts say that even if you live in a polluted community, hopping on your bike will still reap heart-heathy rewards.

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who bicycle for four or more hours per week slashed the risk of a recurrent heart attack by a whopping 31%, regardless of the air quality. That means that even if you live in a smoggy area, cycling can still give your heart and health a boost.

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