• 08.19.13

Driving To Work Is Why You’re Fat

Yet more motivation to hop on that bike: People who get to work using things other than their cars are remarkably more healthy.

Driving To Work Is Why You’re Fat
[Flickr user: Siva V]

Taking the car to work may be convenient, but it might not be good for you. A new study of about 20,000 commuters in the U.K. finds that people who walk or cycle to work are less likely to suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other problems compared to those who drive.


Researchers from Imperial College London and University College London used data from a large household survey to study the relationship between commuting choices and health outcomes. Walkers were 40% less likely to have diabetes compared to drivers, and 17% less likely to have high blood pressure. Cyclists were even healthier: They were half as likely as drivers to have diabetes.

The research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that 19% of people taking cars, motorbikes, or taxis to work were obese, compared to 15% of those who walked, and 13% of those who cycled.

“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, a researcher at Imperial College London, said in a press release. The researchers included public transit in their definition of “active commuting,” as it often involves walking to and from a train station or bus stop.

The study concludes that “more vigorous forms of active travel (i.e., cycling) may confer greater benefits than public transport,” and that “increasing active travel should be prioritized within national and local prevention strategies for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

Ultimately, the study is just another addition to the argument for factoring public health into transportation and urban planning decisions. As we’ve discussed before, there’s a strong link between how neighborhoods are organized for mobility and rates of physical activity. When people walk and cycle–whether to work or the store–they’re likely to be healthier.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.