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Active Commuting is really really good for you!

Commuting by Bike or Foot Provides Heart Help for Men in Study

By Nicole Ostrow

July 13 (Bloomberg) -- Men who walk or bike to work are less likely to be obese and more likely to have healthier blood pressure and insulin levels, research showed.

Men whose commute involved such exercise were half as likely to be obese as those who drove or took public transportation, said Penny Gordon-Larsen, lead author of the study in today’s Archives of Internal Medicine. Cardiovascular benefits found for women in the study weren’t statistically significant, she said.

About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to the National Institutes of Health. Obesity raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke and osteoarthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta. For most adults, walking 60 minutes a day at a brisk pace meets U.S. guidelines for avoiding weight gain, according to the article.

“Even if you adjust for other forms of physical activity, walking or biking to work really does add an additional benefit,” said Gordon-Larsen, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a telephone interview today. “It really shows that working physical activity in, even if you can’t get to a gym, could have beneficial health outcomes for people.”

Researchers included 2,364 people enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study who worked outside the home. They looked at the time, distance and mode of commuting along with body weight, obesity, fitness, blood pressure, insulin levels and blood fat levels.

Active Commuters

Of the study participants, 192 men, or 18 percent, and 203 women, or about 16 percent, were considered active commuters. Most of the active commuters walked to work, the researchers found.

The average commute for the bikers and walkers was 5 miles, compared with 14 miles for nonactive male commuters and 10 miles for women in that category.

Gordon-Larsen said the heart benefits may not have been seen in women because they didn’t walk or bike at a high enough intensity or fewer actively commuted, so the study wasn’t able to achieve significant results.

Future studies are needed to investigate the amount of active commuting needed to benefit health, the authors said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Ostrow in New York at nostrow1@bloomberg.net.