Commuting by Public Transport Instead of by Car May Improve Health

PUBLIC transport may be a better way to get to work than driving for those who want to improve their health. Researchers have found that the risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight were exponentially lower in those who commute by bus or train compared with those who travel by car. Presenting their work on 9th November at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2015, the researchers suggested that the general population should review their daily journey to work and factor it into their health routine.

It is well documented that physical activity reduces the incidence of high blood pressure and obesity – risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. However, the effects that different modes of travel to work have on a person’s health are still unclear. A study group led by Dr Hisako Tsuji, Director, Moriguchi City Health Examination Center, Osaka, Japan, performed a health assessment on 5,908 Japanese adults, which included a question on how they travelled to work. Their commutes were divided into three groups: public transport, car, and on foot/by bike. Each group had an average age of 49–54 years.

The results of the study showed that public transport users were 44% less likely to be overweight, 34% less likely to have diabetes, and 27% less likely to have high blood pressure compared with drivers. Even when compared with walkers/cyclists, public transport commuters displayed lower risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight. The reason for this, suggest the researchers, may be that the walking/cycling participants’ journeys to work are shorter than the public transport commuters’ walk to the bus or train station.

“People should consider taking public transportation instead of a car, as a part of daily, regular exercise. It may be useful for healthcare providers to ask patients about how they commute,” Dr Tsuji suggested on the basis of the study results. There are some limitations to the study, such as the fact that the public transport participants may have already been healthier than those in the other groups regardless of their commute, and the study team believe that further research should be conducted to elucidate the findings.

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