A new study of more than 250,000 UK commuters aged 40-69 years has found that cycling to work can halve the risk of developing cancer and heart disease.
Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) today (20 April), the five-year University of Glasgow study compared those who had an ‘active’ commute with those who were mostly stationary on their journey to work.
The study found that cycling to work cut the risk of death from any cause by 41%, and the risk of developing either cancer or heart disease by 45% and 46% respectively.
The results of the study, described as the largest of its kind, also show that walking cut the odds of developing heart disease by 27%, although the benefit was mostly for people walking more than six miles per week.
Undertaken by researchers from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences and Institute of Health and Wellbeing, the study analysed data from 264,337 participants from UK Biobank, who were asked questions about their usual mode of commuting to work and then followed up for five years.
During that period, 2,430 of those studied died, 3,748 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,110 had heart problems.
The researchers say the findings suggest that policies designed to make it easier for people to commute by bike may present major opportunities for public health improvement.
Dr Jason Gill, from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: “Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with substantially lower risk of adverse health outcomes. Those who cycled the full length of their commute had an over 40% lower risk of heart disease, cancer and overall mortality over the five years of follow-up.
“If these associations are causal, these findings suggest that policies designed to make it easier for people to commute by bike, such as cycle lanes, city bike hire, subsidised cycle purchase schemes and increasing provision for cycles on public transport may present major opportunities for public health improvement.”