Cycling to work cuts mortality risk

Wellington: A recent study has revealed that the people who rode their bicycles to work were found to be at a considerably reduced risk of mortality, most likely as a result of the health benefits of physical activity. However, the same trend wasn’t observed among the subjects who either walked or used public transport to reach their workplace.

Lead researcher Dr Caroline Shaw, from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, says people who cycled to work had a 13% reduction in mortality.

The researchers used data from the New Zealand Census-Mortality Study, which links census and mortality records, to do follow-up studies of the population for three to five years following the 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses, when respondents were asked: ‘On X date (census day), what was the one main way you travelled to work — that is, the one you used for the greatest distance?’

Dr Shaw says the study, which analysed data from 3.5 million New Zealanders, is one of the largest ever cohort studies to examine the association between mode of travel to work and mortality outcomes.

The study found more than 80% of people in New Zealand travelled to work by car on census day, with only 5% walking and 3% cycling. While the study found no association between walking or taking public transport to work and a reduction in mortality, Dr Shaw says there are other reasons to promote these modes of transport. “Walking to work has physical-activity-related health benefits other than mortality reduction — including the prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes — and taking public transport has the benefit of emitting less carbon.”