A study of more than 150,000 UK adults aged 40 years and over has revealed that those who walk, cycle or use public transport for their journey to work tend to be slimmer than commuters who travel by car.
Conducted by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the study shows ‘robust, independent associations’ between active commuting and healthier body weight.
72,999 men and 83,667 women between the age of 40-69 years took part in the study which measured and weighed participants who completed a survey about their typical daily commute.
The results concluded that “active commuting was significantly and independently associated with reduced BMI (body mass index) and percentage body fat for both sexes”.
The study identifies cycling as the best means of keeping in shape, followed by walking. The results also show that even using public transport, with the small amounts of exercise involved, has health benefits over using a car.
Even after factoring in lifestyle choices such as diet and smoking, the study drew the same conclusions in relation to body weight.
A BBC News report on the study says an "average height man would weigh around 5kg (11lbs) less if he were to cycle rather than drive to work each day”. The weight loss for an average height woman is 4.4kg (9.7lbs).
Dr Ellen Flint, the report’s lead author, said: “This study is the first to use UK Biobank data to address the topic of active commuting and obesity and shows robust, independent associations between active commuting and healthier body weight and composition.
“These findings support the case for interventions to promote active travel as a population-level policy response for prevention of obesity in mid-life.”
Talking to BBC News, Ms Flint said it is “important that policy makers and town planners make it easy for people to walk and cycle to work”, describing this as “a win, win for public health and the environment".