Biking to work can cut your risk of cancer and heart disease in half, according to the largest-ever investigation of the health benefits of active commuting. The study, which was recently published in the British Medical Journal, collected data from 250,000 UK commuters over the course of 5 years. The researchers compared the health and wellbeing of active commuters to stationary commuters, and found that biking in particular generated a remarkable longevity boost.
The More Active Your Commute, the Greater the Benefits
The study revealed that individuals who use bicycling as a regular mode of transportation decrease their risk of premature death from any cause by 41%! They also reduce the likelihood that they will develop cancer by 45% and the likelihood that they will develop heart disease by 46%. On average, participants cycled 30 miles each week. The further they cycled, the greater the health benefits.
Walking also improved health outcomes by decreasing participants’ chance of developing heart disease, but the benefits occurred primarily in cases where participants walked 6 miles or more each week.
The study was not designed to determine a clear cause and effect relationship. The findings indicate a connection between active commuting and a longer, healthier life, but do not prove that the former causes the latter. That said, the researchers did account for possible factors that could have affected results, such as:
- Dietary habits
- Body mass
And they found that the link between active commuting and improved health remained.
Why Cycling to Has Such a Dramatic Effect on Your Health
The study’s authors believe that one reason why commuting to work by bicycle appears to improve health so dramatically is that it’s the perfect way to seamlessly incorporate exercise
into your daily routine. “You need to get to work every day, so if you built cycling into the day, it essentially takes willpower out of the equation,” Dr. Jason Gill of the University of Glasgow, who contributed to the study, told the BBC News website.
Clare Hyde, from Cancer Research UK, appreciates how the study highlights the benefits of everyday activities. To be active, “you don’t need to join a gym or run a marathon,” Hyde says. “Anything that gets you a bit hot and out of breath—whether it’s cycling all or partway to work, or doing some housework—can help make a difference.”
5 Tips to make Your Commute More Active
If you’re used to commuting to and from work by car, the prospect of setting up a more active means of navigating your commute may seem daunting. But did you know that many employers offer conveniently located bicycle parking and storage … subsidized transportation passes … and even onsite showers? Some go so far as to guarantee emergency rides home for any active commuter who needs one.
Reach out to your human resources office to learn more about active commuting resources at your place of work. If your employer has not yet taken steps to encourage active commuting, ask them to consider doing so.
Regardless of the level of support offered by your employer, the following 5 tips will help you establish an active commuting routine…
- Ask an expert: There’s good odds that someone you work with already bikes…walks…runs…or uses public transportation to get to work. Talk with them about the best routes and other tips for successful active commuting.
- Find friends: In many cities, you can find communities of bicycle commuters who can offer advice, and may even coordinate so that members commute together.
- Safety first: It’s a good idea to teach yourself how to handle minor repairs (like changing a flat tire or fixing a chain) and to read up on bicycling laws in your state.
- Something is better than nothing: It may not be practical, or possible, for you to bike or walk the entire way to your office. But can you make part of your commute more active? For example, can you bike to a train station? Or get off at an earlier stop and walk from there?
- Sweat happens: Be prepared by keeping a spare set of clothing, body wipes, deodorant, and any other personal care products you might need to refresh yourself if your commute leaves you extra sweaty.