I’m sure most bike commuters have heard “Be safe” when heading out for a rejuvenating bike to work. According to a study in the British Medical Journal, the danger may be in the opposite direction. You may live longer by biking to work.
You should not underestimate the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Walking to your car does not make you less sedentary.
A group of researchers decided to take a look at overall mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease controlling just for commuting differences in the participants. They found that commuting by bike, or a mixed commute involving a bike, are associated with a lower risk of death, cancer incidence, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease incidents.
There were 263 450 participants in the study. Over the median course of five years, 2430 died, 3748 had cancer, and 1110 had a cardiovascular disease incident.
Commuting by walking was associated with a lower risk of CVD incidence and mortality. However, commuting by cycling was associated with the lowest risk of these as well as lower risks of all cause mortality and cancer, with dose dependent relations for all outcomes. Mixed mode commuting was associated with some benefits but only if the active component comprised cycling. These associations were independent of sex, age, deprivation, ethnicity, smoking status, recreational and occupational physical activity, sedentary behaviour, dietary patterns, and other confounding factors, including body mass index and comorbidities.
Physical activity is declining in the US and worldwide. We may be able to improve health and reduce health care costs with policies that increase active commuting, particularly cycling. Investments in bike lanes, bike shares, and provisions for bikes on public transport may not improve commuting, but reduce the cost of healthcare.
- Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study (BMJ 2017;357:j1456)
- It’s Hard to Overstate the Health Benefits of Biking to Work by Stephen Miller