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27 April 2018
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cycling istock
Credit: Istock

21 April 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Updated 3 May 2017

Cycling to work makes you live longer and reduces the chance of adverse cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer, according to a study.

Research, conducted by The University of Glasgow and published in the British Medical Journal, finds that commuting by cycle and by mixed mode including cycling were associated with longer life expectancy.

The study involved between 263 and 450 participants from 22 sites across the UK. The study examined the mode of transport used (walking, cycling, mixed mode versus non-active (car or public transport) to commute to and from work on a typical day. Cycling to work is associated with a 45 per cent lower risk of developing cancer and a 46 per cent lower risk of heart disease compared with a “non-active commute”.

The study concluded that policies designed to encourage more people to adopt active modes of commuting, particularly by cycle (e.g. cycle lanes, city bike hire, subsidised cycle purchase schemes, and increasing provision for cycles on public transport) could present “major opportunities for the improvement of public health”.

Gavin Bradley, founding director of community interest company Active Working, said: “We thoroughly support the concept of cycling to work, and running or walking during lunchtime.”

But he added: “However, increasing scientific evidence indicates that however fit and active you are outside of working hours, if you spend a solid six to eight hours a day seated at your desk in the office you are undoing much of that good. Small, frequent bursts of activity are essential throughout the day. 

“We need to develop a corporate culture and office environment that does not accept prolonged and excessive sitting.”

In a response to the report, consultant virologist Rohini J Manuel, of Public Health England in Public Health Laboratory London, said: “We broadly support the encouragement of increased physical activity in the population, including through commuting to and from work by walking or cycling.

“We are surprised to see no mention of air pollution… Another cause for concern is the rate of accidents among cyclists, including fatal accidents… 

"We could find no mention of road traffic accidents in this paper either.”