If you cycle to work, you also might be increasing your chances of more cycles around the Earth.
A new University of Glasgow study published Thursday in the BMJ found that biking to work was linked to a significantly decreased chance of dying from cancer, cardiovascular disease and all other causes. It also found that such activity was associated with a 45 percent decreased chance of getting cancer compared to those who didn’t actively commute (i.e. using a car or public transportation), in addition to a 46 percent decreased heart disease risk. Walking to work was only linked to a lower cardiovascular disease risk.
Researchers assessed data on more than 264,000 people for the U.K. study, which asked them to note their usual mode of transportation to and from work. They could choose walking, cycling or the aforementioned non-active commute. Researchers then followed up through five years on average and kept a record of hospital admissions and deaths.
“Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with substantially lower risk of adverse health outcomes,” Jason Gill, one of the study authors, said in a statement. “Those who cycled the full length of their commute had an over 40 percent lower risk of heart disease, cancer and overall mortality over the 5 years of follow-up.”
But why did cycling result in better benefits than just walking? It may have to do with distance.
“This may be because walkers commuted shorter distances than cyclists – typically 6 miles per week, compared with 30 miles per week – and walking is generally a lower intensity of exercise than cycling,” study author Carlos A Celis-Morales said in a statement.
As for what this means going forward, Lars Bo Andersen, a professor at the Western Norwegian University of Applied Sciences, didn’t mince words in an editorial published with the study.
“The findings from this study are a clear call for political action on active commuting, which has the potential to improve public health by preventing common (and costly) non-communicable diseases,” Andersen wrote. “A shift from car to more active modes of travel will also decrease traffic in congested city centres and help reduce air pollution, with further benefits for health.”
CNBC, citing information from the World Health Organization, says 30 to 50 percent of cancers might be preventable through practices such as consistent exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.