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May 3, 2017 | 2 minute read

Biking to Work Links to Lower Cancer, Mortality Risk

Biking to work may lead to a longer life, finds a recent study, with a daily ride linking to a lower risk of dying from cancer along with other causes, compared to those who drive or bus to work.

The study was published in The BMJ.

AICR research shows that physical activity reduces the risk of several cancers, including breast and colorectal.

The study used data from 264,377 British participants. Slightly over half of the participants were women and the average age was 53. Participants answered questions about the types of transport they used to get to and from work on a typical day. Options included walking, cycling, driving and public transportation.

After an average of five years, those who biked to work had a lower risk of dying from any cause during the course of the study, compared to those who used a vehicle. Biking both short and long distances linked to lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality, compared to non-active commuters. This is after taking into account several factors linked with earlier mortality, including age, smoking and body mass index.

Commuting by walking was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality.

Commuting by cycling was associated with the lowest risk of the commuter options – as well as lower risks of all cause mortality and cancer. Among cycling commuters there were distinct dose-response trends in all outcomes by weekly commuting distance.

A combination of active and non-active transport was also associated with some benefits, but only if biking was part of the commute.

Furthermore, a lower risk for cardiovascular disease incidence was only evident among the walking commuters who covered more than six miles a week (equivalent to two hours of weekly commuting by walking at a typical pace of three miles an hour).

The researchers point out that this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. There are also limitations, including that the study population — taken from UK Biobank — may be healthier than the general population.

Funding for the study lists the UK Biobank was supported by the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, Scottish government, and Northwest Regional Development Agency. It has also had funding from the Welsh Assembly government and British Heart Foundation. 

Source: Carlos A Celis-Morales et al. Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study. BMJ 2017;357:j1456

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