New research backs up the assumption that walking and cycling to work will help reduce your Body Mass Index (BMI) and reduce the level of obesity over two years .
Researchers with the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet Activity and Research studied the potential to contribute to reducing the average weight of the population by helping commuters build regular physical activity into their daily routines through walking, cycling and using public transport on their way to work.
Since the proportion of people in England and Wales who commute by car has increased from 42 percent to 67 percent over the last 40 years, the research team based their findings on the responses of more than 4,000 adults in three annual waves of the British Household Panel Survey collected between 2004 and 2007. The commuters reported their usual main mode of travel to work each year as well as their height and weight in the first and third years. The researchers used a series of analyses to see if changes in mode of transport were linked to changes in weight over time.
We found that switching from the car to walking, cycling or public transport is associated with an average reduction of 0.32 BMI, which equates to a difference of about one kilogram for the average person, said Adam Martin, lead researcher from UEAs Norwich Medical School. This might sound like a relatively small proportion of their total weight, but we also found that the longer the commute, the stronger the association. For those with a commute of more than 30 minutes, there was an average reduction of 2.25 BMI units, or around seven kilograms for the average person.
The key feature of this study is that we were able to compare changes in weight over time between commuters who had and had not changed how they travelled to work, Martin continued. However, it is an observational study, so we cant draw definitive conclusions about cause and effect. Combined with other potential health, economic, and environmental benefits associated with walking, cycling and public transport, these findings add to the case for interventions to support a larger proportion of commuters taking up these more sustainable forms of transport.