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Walking, biking to work linked to less body fat: study

man cycling

Photo: kupicoo/iStockphoto

London – Employees who ride a bike, walk or take public transportation to work have a lower body mass index and body fat percentage than people who drive to work, according to a study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

For the study, researchers examined the data of more than 150,000 people 40 to 69 years old in the United Kingdom. They found that riding a bike to work had the strongest results. The average man who biked to work weighed 11 pounds less and had a BMI 1.71 kg/m2 lower than men who drove to work. The average woman who cycled to work was 9.7 pounds lighter and had a BMI 1.65 kg/m2 lower than a woman who drove to work. Other findings from the study include:

  • Walking to work was associated with a difference in BMI of 0.98 in men and 0.80 in women.
  • Longer distances when riding a bike and walking were connected with larger decreases in BMI and percentage body fat.
  • Workers who commuted only by public transportation also had a lower BMI compared to workers who drove.

“We found that, compared with commuting by car, public transport, walking and cycling or a mix of all three are associated with reductions in body mass and body fat percentage, even when accounting for demographic and socioeconomic factors,” Ellen Flint, study author and lecturer in population health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in the release. “Many people live too far from their workplace for walking or cycling to be feasible, but even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport can have an important effect.”

The connection between “active” commuting and BMI was independent of factors such as income, smoking and overall physical activity, according to a press release. The study was published online March 16 in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.