Study Links Commuting Choices To Heart Health: Walk Or Cycle To Impact Cardiovascular Risk

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Commuting to work is a daily routine for most of us, and the mode of transportation we choose can have a significant impact on our overall health. A new study published in Preventive Medicine has revealed that active commuting, such as cycling or walking, can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality. Despite the well-known health benefits of active commuting, researchers are still uncertain about the exact mechanism by which it influences health outcomes.

Researchers analyzed the impact of active and passive commuting on CVD outcomes by studying data from the UK Biobank’s baseline survey of 208,893 participants. They assessed eight biomarkers, including triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein), CRP (C-reactive protein), apolipoprotein A and B, and lipoprotein A, to determine if the levels increased the risk of developing CVD.

The research showed that individuals who regularly walked to work had a notably reduced chance of having low HDL and apolipoprotein A compared to those who commuted by car. Additionally, cycling to work was linked with a decreased risk of high triglycerides, low apolipoprotein A, high or low apolipoprotein B, and elevated CRP levels.

Increasing passive commuters’ weekly travel distance by 10 miles raised their risk of developing high total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, as well as low apolipoprotein A and high/low apolipoprotein B levels. Every extra mile on the commute for regular walkers lowered their risk of high triglycerides. No significant change was found in projected biomarker levels for cyclists or public transport users when increasing their travel distance.

The study showed that personal factors such as waist-to-hip ratio, medication for CVD, and dietary habits played a crucial role in determining the results. Cyclists covered an average of 34 miles per week, burning up to 2,000 extra calories based on their cycling intensity. Additionally, 16% of cyclists didn’t consume processed meat, indicating differences in dietary habits compared to car commuters.

Interestingly, the study revealed an interesting finding that there was no significant difference in CVD biomarker levels between individuals who used public transportation, like buses, subways, and trains. The researchers suggested that other factors, such as the quality of public transport, work schedules, weather, and accessibility of childcare facilities, might play a role in determining the health outcomes of various commuting practices. Therefore, further investigation is required to gain a deeper understanding of how commuting by public transport and other variables can affect physical health.

One of the key strengths of this study is its large number of participants and the use of a variety of biomarkers. However, the researchers also recognize that the study’s cross-sectional design and the possible impact of residual confounding variables are significant limitations to consider when interpreting the results.

The study adds to the evidence that active commuting has cardiovascular health benefits by linking it to certain biomarker levels. This could impact public health policy, particularly in urban areas where active commuting could be encouraged to improve cardiovascular health.

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