People who walk to work are 40% less likely to develop diabetes and 17% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who drive, according to a new study.
Researchers analysed data from 20 000 UK residents to examine how the ways they travelled to work affected their health.
Walking, cycling and using public transit all were linked to a lower risk of being overweight than driving or taking a taxi. People who cycled to work were about half as likely to have diabetes as those who commuted by car.
The study also found that 19% of people who used private transport such as cars, motorcycles or taxis to get to work were obese, contrasted with 15% of those who walked and 13% of those who cycled.
Modes of getting to work varied widely in different parts of the United Kingdom. For example, 52% of people in London used public transport, compared with 5% in Northern Ireland, according to the study appearing on 6 August in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
High blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight all are major risk factors for heart and circulatory disease. The new findings show that people could reduce their risks of serious health problems such as heart attacks by avoiding car commutes, the researchers said.
"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," Anthony Laverty, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said in a college news release.
"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," he said.
Although the researchers uncovered an association between walking or cycling to work and decreased risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, they did not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect link.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers tips to help you get active.