A new study has shown that travelling to work via public transport is healthier than using your car — at least when it comes to your waistline. On average, people who drive to work tend to be around 3kg heavier than those whose commute is more active. In other words, that five-minute walk to the bus stop really does make a difference.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analysed the health records of approximately 15,000 people based on a combination of BMI measurements and body fat measurements. This data was then compared to the participants' preferred mode of work travel.
A total of 76 per cent of men and 72 per cent of women commuted to work by private motorised transport, 10 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women reporting using public transport, while 14 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women walked or cycled.
The study found that men who take the car weigh an average of 3kg more than non-drivers, while female drivers tipped the scales by an additional 2.5kg. Interestingly, there was a marked difference in body weight among public transport users, not just cyclists and walkers:
In fully adjusted models the mean body mass index of men travelling to work by public transport was lower by 1.1 (95% confidence interval 0.5 to 1.7) than that of men using private transport. This benefit is likely to accrue because use of public transport generally involves walking to transport access points or interchanges, thus increasing incidental physical activity.
Based on its findings, the report suggests that healthcare professionals should begin advising patients to “leave your car at home” and increase the number of trips they make for work, shopping, and leisure using public transport.
"This will not only improve their patients’ health in the short term but also reduce the burden of obesity and related health conditions,” the report concludes. "It is crucial that the public health community provide strong and consistent messages to politicians and the public which frame these measures as positive public health actions.” Here's hoping the ebola epidemic doesn't prove them wrong.