As part of the U.K. Biobank project,
263,450 volunteers from 40 to 69 years
of age reported how they got to work on
a typical day, with 6,751 saying that they
bicycled. During a median five years of
follow-up, 2,430 participants died of any
cause and 1,126 died of cancer.
The study was observational, meaning
that participants lived their lives
normally rather than being randomly
assigned to modes of commuting. To try
to determine whether bicycling made
people healthier or whether healthier
people were simply more likely to
bicycle, the researchers made statistical
adjustments for a variety of factors. These
included sex, age, ethnicity, underlying
health conditions, socioeconomic status
and habits like smoking, diet and physical
activity not related to commuting.
After making these adjustments, the
researchers concluded that, compared to
driving or taking public transportation,
bicycling to work was associated with
about a 40 percent reduction in risk of
death from any cause and of death from
cancer. Bicycling was also associated
with a lower risk of being diagnosed with
cancer and of being diagnosed with or
dying from cardiovascular disease.
Compared to driving or taking public
transportation, walking to work was
associated with a reduced risk of being
diagnosed with cardiovascular disease
and of dying from it. Walkers did not
have a reduced risk of dying from any
cause, dying from cancer or being
diagnosed with cancer, possibly because
they covered a median of just 6 miles per
week compared to 30 miles for bikers,
says Jason Gill, a physiologist at the
University of Glasgow in Scotland who
co-led the study.
Exercise is known to be associated with
longer life and lower risk of some cancers.
Even so it is easy to let a small setback
like a bad mood or a busy schedule derail
a trip to the gym. If you bicycle to work,
Gill says, “you get your activity in automatically.” —KATE YANDELL
You may not think of commuting as a time to fit in an exercise session. But a study published April 19, 2017, in the BMJ suggests that people who bicycle to work are
healthier in some ways than those who commute by driving or
taking public transportation.
BICYCLING TO WORK CAN BE A WAY TO BUILD
EXERCISE INTO YOUR DAY.
Just 0.6 percent of workers in the
U.S. commute by bicycle, according
to data collected by the U.S. Census
Bureau between 2008 and 2012.
Employer-provided showers and
bicycle parking are associated
with increased bicycling, and free
parking is associated with decreased
bicycling, says Ralph Buehler, who
studies transportation planning and
policy at Virginia Tech in Alexandria.
Cities that have built bicycle lanes,
paths and other facilities that provide
physical separation from motor
vehicles have seen increases in
cycling and improved cycling safety,
he adds. “There’s a lot of room to
grow for U.S. cycling.” —K. Y.
There are a lot of little things you
can do to make it easier to cycle to
work, says Jason Gill, a physiologist
who studies physical activity and
metabolic health at the University
of Glasgow in Scotland.
•“Scope out the route before you need
to do it for real,” says Gill. Practice
biking to work on a weekend.
• Learn how to maintain and repair
your bike. Practice fixing a flat
• Equip your bike with lights for
day and night to make yourself
visible. Install fenders to protect
yourself and your bike from
getting splashed in bad weather.
• Connect with cycling resources. The
League of American Bicyclists has
tips for commuting (bikeleague.
org/content/commuting). —K. Y.