Large and 'conclusive' study shows cycling to work 'can cut risk of heart disease and cancer by a quarter,' walking, transit commuting also helpful for health | Evening Standard

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A major study tracking more than 300,000 commuters has revealed that cycling to work can cut the risk of dying early from illnesses such as heart disease and cancer by up to 24 per cent. . . .

The conclusive peer-reviewed report, published today in The Lancet Planetary Health journal by researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, used Census data to track a cohort of commuters in England and Wales between 1991 and 2016.

It found that those who cycled to work saw an overall 20 per cent reduced rate of early death during the period, compared with drivers.

They saw a 24 per cent reduced rate of death from cardiovascular disease - which includes heart attack and stroke - a 16 per cent reduced rate of death from cancer, and an 11 per cent reduced rate of a cancer diagnosis.

Walking to work showed a less significant impact than cycling, but walking commuters studied still experienced a seven per cent lower rate of cancer diagnosis than their driver commuter peers. . . .

It also showed even taking the train rather than getting behind the wheel cuts the risk of early death by 10 per cent.

Authors said the health benefits to rail travel were not due to the number of accidents encountered on the road, but were likely because rail users walk to and from station at each end of their journey.

MoBikeFed comment: You can a find the full original study in The Lancet Planetary Health journal here:

A few key quotes from the research article:

"Our findings augment existing evidence for the beneficial health effects of physically active commute modes, particularly cycling and train use, and suggest that all socioeconomic groups could benefit."

"Compared with people who commuted by private motorised vehicle, bicycle commuters had a 20% reduced rate of all-cause mortality (HR 0·80, 95% CI 0·73–0·89), a 24% reduced rate of cardiovascular mortality (0·76, 0·61–0·93), an 11% reduced rate of incident cancer (0·89, 0·82–0·97), and a 16% reduced rate of cancer mortality (0·84, 0·73–0·98) in adjusted models (figure 1; appendix p 10). Walk commuters had a 7% lower rate of incident cancer (HR 0·93, 0·89–0·97) in adjusted models, and in unadjusted analyses, walk commuters had 17% and 16% higher rates of all-cause mortality (HR 1·17, 95% CI 1·11–1·23) and cancer mortality (1·16, 1·08–1·25), respectively. Public transport commuters had a 7% lower rate of incident cancer compared with commuters using a private motorised vehicle (HR 0·93, 95% CI 0·89–0·97) in adjusted models, with larger associations in unadjusted analyses (0·79, 0·76–0·82)."

"Tests for interaction showed that population density and part-time working had no effect on associations (appendix p 11). Analyses stratified by social classification suggested that associations were of similar magnitude and direction across occupation-based socioeconomic group (figure 3; appendix p 12). In sex-stratified analyses, no differences were seen between men and women (appendix p 13)."

"Our study provides additional evidence for the health benefits associated with increased use of physically active travel modes, including public transport. Potential health benefits of public transport have received little attention previously, and our findings identified public transport use to be associated with a reduced rate of incident cancer, whereas a systematic review linked public transport use to reduced adiposity. These findings should inform policy decisions on future spending priorities, particularly those in transport and other non-health sectors. Increased walking, cycling, and public transport use would contribute to improved air quality and subsequent health benefits for all. Our findings also indicate that the associations between commute mode and health were consistent across occupation-based socioeconomic groups. If the relative health benefits of active travel apply to all, then the greater underlying risk experienced by people in lower socioeconomic groups would result in greater absolute benefits for these groups."