Cycling to Work Brings Big Health Benefits
But those who partially walked and partially went by vehicle or public transportation did not show any benefit.
The five-year study compared people who had an "active" commute with those who were mostly stationary.
Over the five year period, new cases of heart attacks, cancer and deaths were analysed and then "related to their mode of commuting". Importantly, we adjusted for other health influences including sex, age, deprivation, ethnicity, smoking, body mass index, other types of physical activity, time spent sitting down and diet.
Yet among the individuals who walked to work, cancer rates did not decline.
People who cycle to work were 45 per cent less likely to develop cancer and 46 per cent less likely to suffer heart disease than those who drove or took public transport. However, commuting by cycling was associated with the lowest risk of these - as well as lower risks of all cause mortality and cancer.
"Physical activity helps to reduce the risk of cancer and, while the researchers are cautious about concluding too much about their results, this study helps to highlight the potential benefits of building activity into your everyday life", said Clare Hyde, Cancer Research UK's health information officer. Its findings could also be affected by some confounding factors, they added, including that the mode and distance of commuting was self-reported, rather than objectively measured.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow found that individuals who walk to work also saw a decreased risk of heart disease, but the chances of dying from cancer for walkers showed no change from people who don't.
Experts behind the study believe the significantly higher health benefits of cycling could be due to cyclists travelling longer distances and at a higher intensity, making cyclists fitter than walkers.
Furthermore, a lower risk for CVD incidence was only evident among the walking commuters who covered more than six miles a week (equivalent to two hours of weekly commuting by walking at a typical pace of three miles an hour). However, they have several theories as to why bikers have better odds than walkers.
Lord Tebbit never mentioned walking to work, but this has also been shown to provide major health benefits.
Walking to work was also associated with a 27% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 36% lower risk of dying from it. In a linked editorial, Professor Lars Bo Andersen from Western Norwegian University of Applied Sciences, says the United Kingdom has lagged behind other countries in providing cycling amenities. Countries where commuter cycling is common have benefited from solid investments over decades.