London: Adults between 40 and 69 years of age can draw significant health benefits by using public transport, walking and cycling to work as these are linked to reductions in Body Mass Index (BMI) and percentage body fat compared with those who commute by car, say researchers.
"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 socio-economic factors," said study author Ellen Flint from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
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 study, published in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, looked at data from over 150,000 individuals from Britian's Biobank data set -- an observational study of 500,000 individuals aged between 40 and 69 in Britain.
The researchers saw the strongest associations for adults who commuted via bicycle compared to those who commute via car.
For the average man in the sample (age 53 years; height 176.7cm; weight 85.9kg), cycling to work rather than driving was associated with a weight difference of 5kg.
For the average woman in the sample (age 52 years; height 163.6cm; weight 70.6kg), the weight difference was 4.4kg.
After cycling, walking to work was associated with the greatest reduction in BMI and percentage body fat, compared to car users.
For both cycling and walking, greater travelling distances were associated with greater reductions in BMI and percentage body fat.
The link between active commuting and BMI was independent of other factors such as income, area deprivation, urban or rural residence, education, alcohol intake, smoking, general physical activity and overall health and disability.