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Ditching your car might just save your life

Walking or cycling to work could cut your risk of dying from heart disease or stroke by 30 per cent, new research suggests. In a bid to understand the impact of everyday activity on health, researchers from the University of Cambridge, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Imperial College London investigated the commuting habits of 358,99 people enrolled in the UK Biobank.

Their results, published in the journal Heart, found that commuting by foot, bike or public transport dramatically reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular problems or having a stroke. At the start of the study, people were questioned about their travel habits, as well as other important health behaviours such as smoking before being followed up for an average of seven years.

About two-thirds of participants who commuted three or more times a week relied exclusively on the car Meanwhile, cycling was less prevalent, being mentioned by eight-and-a-half per cent of regular commuters.

Analysis of the data revealed that, among people who commuted, those with more active patterns compared with exclusive car users were associated with an 11 per cent lower relative risk of developing heart disease or stroke, and a 30 per cent lower relative risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

What’s more, regular commuters who also had more active patterns of commute and non-commute travel combined had an even lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease at 43 per cent less.

“More active patterns of travel were associated with a reduced risk of incident and fatal CVD and all-cause mortality in adults,” study authors said.

“This is an important message for clinicians advising people about how to be physically active and reduce their risk of disease.”

“51 per cent of the UK population is female, yet most of our cities are failing to design roads and streets for women to cycle.


“Evidence from the UK and beyond shows that when dedicated space for riding a bike is provided, alongside engagement programmes, the gender gap in cycling can be eliminated.