Researchers investigated the effects of active commuting on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer, as well as the risk of all-cause mortality. The findings demonstrate that cycling to work is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, CVD, and cancer.
Physical activity is a key component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, however, for many of us it can be difficult to find the time. In the past, it has been suggested that active commuting to and from work for example, would be an easy way to incorporate more exercise into our everyday routines. Earlier studies that have explored the relationship between active commuting and its impact on our health have focused primarily on the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). While these studies have indicated potential benefits of active commuting on CVD, the findings have been limited due to small sample sizes. Therefore, using a large number of participants, researchers examined the effects of active commuting on not only CVD, but also on the risk of developing cancer and on all-cause mortality.
This study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, observed 263 540 participants between the ages of 40 and 69 years, living in England, Scotland, and Wales. Participants were asked to complete an electronic survey that questioned them about their daily method of transportation. Based on these answers, the participants were divided into 5 groups: the non-active group, which meant the main method of transportation was either by car or public transit; the walking only group; the cycling group, which involved cycling and potentially walking; the mixed mode walking group, which involved walking and non-active methods of transportation; and lastly the mixed mode cycling group, which included using a non-active mode of transportation in addition to cycling. These individuals were then observed over the next few years, and data regarding any incidents of CVD, cancer, or death were obtained and analyzed. Over the duration of the follow-up period, there were a total of 2430 deaths, 1110 individuals suffered from cardiovascular disease related issues, and 3748 developed cancer.
The results of the study indicate that cycling as the main mode of transportation seems to have the most benefits on your health, followed by walking, and then obviously, non-active methods. Researchers found that individuals in the cycling group or the mixed mode cycling group saw a significant reduction in their risk of all-cause mortality. Additionally, cycling was also associated with reductions in the risk of CVD and cancer-related deaths. Furthermore, those in the cycling group had the best cardiorespiratory fitness of all participants. Interestingly, there was no link between the walking group or the mixed mode walking group and incidences or deaths related to cancer. However, those in the walking group did see a reduction in their risk of CVD and deaths related to CVD, in comparison to the non-active commuters.
These findings are interesting because they establish a link between active commuting and the risk of all-cause mortality, CVD and cancer. The results can help to push cities around the world to enact legislation that would make it easier for people to cycle to work, including the introduction of more bike lanes. However, this is still only an observational study, and further research is needed to discover a causal relationship.
Written By: Sonia Parmar, BSc