A research team including Alistair and Jonny Brownlee – famous for their triathlon success at the Olympic Games and also alumni of the University – found active travel provides small but definite health benefits. The researchers analysed UK Census data from 2011, which included 43 million adults in England. They discovered women who walked to walk had 1.7 per cent fewer heart attacks the following year, and men who cycled to work had 1.7 per cent fewer heart attacks the following year too.
Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the study found that 11.4 per cent of those included in the Census data were active commuters, with 8.6 per cent walking to work and 2.8 per cent cycling. More men cycled that women (3.8 per cent compared with 1.7 per cent) while more women walked (11.7 per cent compared with six per cent). The number of people walking or cycling also varied considerably throughout England. In some areas, for instance, only five per cent walked or cycled to work. But in other areas, the rate of people actively travelling to work was as high as 41.6 per cent.
“Whilst we cannot conclusively say that active travel to work lowers the risk of heart attack, the study is indicative of such a relationship,” says Professor Chris Gale, a consultant cardiologist at the university’s Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine (and lead author of the study).
“The effect of active commuting is fairly modest when compared with the stronger determinants of cardiovascular health such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, and regular exercise. However, this study clearly suggests that exercising on the way to work has the potential to bring nationwide improvements to health and wellbeing.”
If you work too far from the office to walk or cycle all the way, try at least walking the last part of your journey by getting off the bus or tube a stop or two early. It all counts towards your daily activity goals.