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Commuting by bike is better for weight loss than walking, study

Bicycle commuting linked to lowest BMI and body fat percentages of modes of transportation studied

Photo: Richard Masoner

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom studied 72,999 men and 83,667 women aged between 40 and 60 to examine the relationship between active commuting and obesity. The study published in the Lancet confirmed that commuting by bicycle is a great way to stay lean and even loose weight.

Using data from the U.K. Biobank, the study categorized self-reported commuting methods into seven categories, ordered to reflect the typical level of physical exertion. The body mass index and percentage body fat of the individuals were used to determine the relationship between the different modes of transportation and obesity. The data was based on weight and height collected from men and women aged 40 to 69 years who visited 22 assessment centers across the U.K. between 2006 and 2010.

The study found that those who commuted by other means than car or by public transportation were at lower risk of having excess body fat. Additionally bicycle commuters had lower BMIs than walkers. Commuters who more often used bicycles had the lowest BMIs out of all the groups studied. The average male in the sample was aged 53-years-old, weighted 189 pounds and was 5″8. Cycling as a primary mode of transportation was associated with an 11-lb weight difference compared to those who drive or use public transportation.

Confounding variables that were taken into account by the researchers included income, area deprivation, urban or rural residence, education, alcohol intake, smoking, leisure physical activity, recreational walking, occupational physical activity, general health, and limiting illness or disability.

The authors concluded that the findings of the study show a robust, independent and convincing association between active commuting and healthier body composition and weight. The study concluded that intervention to promote active travel as a prevention of obesity in mid-life is suggested as a policy response to the findings.