A Ride to Work is Best

Healthier life styles for those who bike or walk to work

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Commuting to work by your own two legs does a whole lot more than save gas money and prevent air pollution.

People who walk and bike to work and school do burn extra calories compared to workers who take the planes, trains and automobiles, a new study reports.

"Walk or bike to work."

The study, led by Shannon Sahlqvist, PhD, a lecturer at the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University in Australia, and David Ogilvie, PhD, from the Center for Diet and Activity Research, looked at travel and how it relates to recreational and total physical activity among a group of adults in the UK.

Researchers surveyed 3,516 adults for the iConnect study in the UK during April 2010.

They averaged about 51-years-old and just over half were female.

Participants recounted their travel and recreational physical activity for seven-days, including to and from work or studies; while working; shopping and personal business; and social visits with friends and family.

They recorded how many journeys they made, total time traveled and the distance traveled while walking and cycling, and via other modes of transportation.

Researchers categorized walking and cycling as active travel. Transportation by bus, train and car were in the motorized category.

They found that 65 percent of the participants traveled by walking or cycling. A little over 60 percent walked for transportation and averaged 176.1 minutes per week.

Another 12 percent cycled and spent about 146 minutes per week doing so.

Commuters who walked or cycled had an additional 321 minutes per week (or 46 minutes per day) compared to those who only used cars, buses and trains to get to work.

Those who used both active and motorized transportation had an extra 189 minutes of physical activity per week or about half an hour per day.

And those who burn the calories more than 60 minutes per week to get to work participated in significantly more physical activity overall than those who used motorized transportation alone.

The mode of travel didn't affect the level of recreational physical activity.

"Not surprisingly, those who reported using only active modes of transport participated in the greatest total physical activity," the authors said in their report.

"Encouragingly, however, those who reported active travel in combination with either public transport or car use were significantly more physically active than those who used only motorized modes of transport."

The authors note some limitations with their study, including their relying on participants' truthful input in reporting recreational travel and transport sections.

Participants were also mainly from a higher socioeconomic status than the local population and were already more likely to meet the current physical activity recommendations. Their travel patterns however are similar to others.

They also note that more active travel does not mean that physical activity also increased. Future research can look into that, the authors said.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest in writing the article, which was supported by iConnect, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council, the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), British Heart Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research and Welcome Trust.

The study was published online July 2012 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 25, 2012
Last Updated:
September 27, 2012