Using public transport, cycling or walking, instead of driving to work, could help people shed pounds, a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) in the UK found that walking and cycling to work improves wellbeing and mental health.
They found that making a change from driving to work to using public transport, cycling or walking could help reduce body mass index (BMI) over two years.
“This study highlights the potential to contribute to reducing the average weight of the population by helping commuters build regular physical activity into their daily routines through walking, cycling and using public transport on their journey to work,” said lead researcher Adam Martin, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.
The research team based their findings on the responses of more than 4,000 adults in three annual waves of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) collected between 2004 and 2007.
Commuters reported their usual main mode of travel to work each year, and their height and weight in the first and third years.
The researchers then used a series of analyses to see if changes in mode of transport were linked to changes in weight over time.
“We found that switching from the car to walking, cycling or public transport is associated with an average reduction of 0.32 BMI, which equates to a difference of about 1 kg for the average person,” Martin said.
“This might sound like a relatively small proportion of their total weight, but we also found that the longer the commute, the stronger the association.
“For those with a commute of more than 30 minutes, there was an average reduction of 2.25 BMI units, or around 7 kg (over one stone) for the average person,” he said.
The research team also found that switching to using a car to get to work was associated with a significant average increase of 0.34 BMI units.