A study by academics from Cambridge University found workers who walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work have an 11% lower risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke than commuters who only use the car.
The results of the study, which used data from more than 350,000 adults aged 37 to 73, also show walking, cycling or using public transport leads to a 30% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
Researchers found the association was “even stronger” when they examined both commuting and everyday travel.
Nearly half the people studied for the research were either retired, unemployed or worked from home.
According to the study, even among these people, active travel patterns could lead to an 8% lower relative risk of death.
Writing for Cambridge University website The Conversation, the MRC Epidemiology Unit’s Oliver Mytton and Jenna Panter said, “More active patterns of travel, compared with exclusive car use, were associated with reduced risk of heart disease and death.
“Our research builds on what is already known about the health benefits of physical activity. Some people may choose to use cars less when they understand the impacts on health.
“But may people may not have a choice. Others may just do what is convenient, comfortable and normal.
“While decisions about transport infrastructure may be made for a variety of non-health reasons, our study provides further evidence that health needs to be integrated into decisions that are made about transport.”
The study – ‘Using alternatives to the car and risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality’ – was published in the British Cardiovascular Society’s Heart journal.