Active commuting linked to big health benefits: British study

LONDON: Cycling to work will substantially lower the risk of developing cancer or heart disease or dying prematurely, and governments should do all they can to encourage more active commuting, scientists said on Thursday.

In a study published in the BMJ British medical journal, the researchers found that cycling to work was linked to the most significant health benefits, including a 45 per cent lower risk of developing cancer and a 46 per cent lower risk of heart disease compared to non-active commuters.

Walking to work was linked to a 27 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 36 per cent lower risk of dying from it, though it also appeared to have no effect on cancer risk or overall premature death risk, the study showed.

The study involved 264,377 people with an average age of 53 whose data forms part of the UK Biobank - a database of biological information from half a million British adults.

Since the study was observational, no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, the researchers said.

The findings could also have been affected by some confounding factors, they added, including the mode and distance of commuting were self-reported, rather than objectively measured.

But, "the findings, if causal, suggest population health may be improved by policies that increase active commuting, particularly cycling".

These would include creating more cycling lanes, introducing more bike-buying or hiring schemes and providing better access for cyclists on public transport. - REUTERS