- Being physically inactive has been the leading cause of premature mortality and obesity.
- The negative health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle are risk factors for type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer.
- Physical activity is associated with longevity, strengthening of muscles, bones and improvement in mood.
The beneficial effects of a non-sedentary lifestyle on obesity and other related health issues are very well known. However, in developing countries, the lifestyles of people have become more sedentary and physical inactivity has become the fourth leading factor for premature mortality risks. Declining rates of functional active commuting have contributed to a population-level reduction in physical activity and there is ecological evidence, which suggests that obesity levels have been rising with greater decline in active modes of commuting.
‘Active commuting such as cycling, walking or using public transport to work for those in their midlife years, could be a significant part of the global policy response to prevent population-level obesity.’
AdvertisementActive commuting to workplaces has been strongly recommended by the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health & Care Excellence as a feasible way of incorporating higher levels of non-sedentary lifestyle.
Relationship Between Active Commuting and Improved Physical Health
A recent study conducted by the researchers of the Department of Social and Environmental Health Research, London has examined the relation between active commuting and obesity.
The study has revealed how the way in which we travel to work significantly impacts our BMI.
They collected cross-sectional observational data from the UK Biobank involving individuals between the age of 40 and 69 years who had been visiting 22 different assessment centers across the country from 2006 to 2010. The self-reported commuting method was categorized into seven different options to reflect typical levels of physical activities.
The outcomes that were measured were BMI and percentage of body fat. It was observed that active commuting was significantly associated with low BMI and low body fat percentage among both genders.
Individuals who commuted by walking or cycling had lower BMI and fat percentage compared to those who traveled by car or public transport. This finding promotes active travel as a population-level policy response to prevent mid-life obesity.
Cycling- The Best Mode of Commuting to Work
Cycling provides adequate cardiovascular stimulus and it reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, more frequently in older men and women.
Unsurprisingly, cycling was found to be the best and healthiest option for commuting to work. It was revealed that on an average, cyclists were 5 kg lighter than those who commuted by car and the difference in their BMI was 1.71 kg/m2. Female participants who traveled by cycle to work were found to be 4.4 kg lighter than women who drove cars to work with the difference in their BMIs of 1.65 kg/m2
Advantage of Walking to Work
Walkers had better health than those who drove their cars to work, with a difference in BMI of 0.98 kg/m2 for men and 0.80 kg/m2 for women.
Little Activity Better Than None
They also reported that those who traveled to work by train or bus had significantly lower BMIs than those who drove with the BMI difference of 0.70 kg/m2
Association Between Active Commuting and Cardiovascular Disease Risk and Obesity
The researchers from the Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina have found out the relation between lifestyle exercises like active commuting to work with obesity, fitness and cardiovascular disease risk factors.
The study included 2364 participants who had enrolled for the coronary artery risk development in young adults during 2005-2006. The association between active commuting such as walking or cycling with body weight, BMI and fitness were separately assessed. They observed that active commuting was positively associated with fitness in both the genders whereas, it was inversely associated with BMI, obesity, blood pressure, triglyceride levels and insulin levels in men.
The study has suggested that active commuting should be practiced for maintaining and improving health.
Due to its accessibility and flexibility, walking has been generally reported as the most popular leisure-time physical activity for adults. It has been particularly recommended as a targeted activity to achieve national physical activity recommendations. 6o minutes of brisk walking per day is recommended for most adults in order to avoid weight gain.
An alternative non-leisure form of physical activity like active commuting (walking or cycling to work) can be a potentially effective means of increasing physical activity. However, the term "active commuting" should not be necessarily limited to walking and cycling; it can also involve using public transport to reach transport hubs.
A very simple intervention like this can potentially improve the health of people. By promoting and facilitating active commuting, we can easily prevent obesity.
- Flint E1, Cummins S2. Active commuting and obesity in mid-life: cross-sectional, observational evidence from UK Biobank. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2016 Mar 16. pii: S2213-8587(16)00053-X. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(16)00053-X.
- Shephard RJ1. Is active commuting the answer to population health? Sports Med. 2008;38(9):751-8.
- Gordon-Larsen P1, Boone-Heinonen J, Sidney S, Sternfeld B, Jacobs DR Jr, Lewis CE. Active commuting and cardiovascular disease risk: the CARDIA study. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Jul 13;169(13):1216-23. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2009.163.
- Flint E1, Cummins S2, Sacker A3. Associations between active commuting, body fat, and body mass index: population based, cross sectional study in the United Kingdom. BMJ. 2014 Aug 19;349:g4887. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g4887.