Walk to work, slash diabetes risk

People who walk to work are about 40 percent less likely to have diabetes compared to those who drive, a new study reports.

Researchers at Imperial College London and University College London analyzed how different health indicators related to how people got to work/ They studied data from a survey of 20,000 people in the United Kingdom.

Drivers might be in danger

The study found that cycling, walking and even using public transportation were associated with a lower risk of becoming overweight, while people who drove to work or took taxis were prone to pack on the pounds. Moreover, drivers were 17 percent more likely to have high blood pressure. Cyclists were found to be half as likely to have diabetes as people who took drove to work.

Research revealed that 19 percent of drivers and taxi passengers were obese, while 15 percent of walkers and 13 percent of cyclists fell into this category.

Wide variations in modes of transportation were seen in different areas of the United Kingdom. In London, for example, 52 percent of residents use public transportation to get to work, while just 5 percent do so in Northern Ireland.

Building physical activity into the daily routine

Since high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are all contributing factors for heart disease, the United Kingdom's biggest killer, the research points to the importance of incorporating exercise into everyday activities.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last year found that people who drive long distances to work are not only likely to be overweight, but also to suffer from high blood pressure.

"This study highlights that building physical activity into the daily routine by walking, cycling or using public transport to get to work is good for personal health ," said Anthony Laverty from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average 160-pound person can burn about 314 calories walking for an hour, or 292 cycling for the same amount of time. Walking or biking to work just a few days a week, therefore, can mean the difference between gaining or losing 10-20 pounds in a year – depending on how active a person is to begin with.

Alternative solutions

For those who cannot walk or cycle to work, the study suggests that just hopping on a bus will be better for long-term health.

"The variations between regions suggest that infrastructure and investment in public transport, walking and cycling can play a large role in encouraging healthy lives, and that encouraging people out of the car can be good for them as well as the environment," Laverty said.

Source: Imperial College London

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