How do you get to work or school? It might seem like a relatively inconsequential decision, but the way you choose to travel to and from your job or place of study on a daily basis could add up in the long run and have significant repercussions for your health, according to a new study.
Researchers in Japan have found that riding the bus or train to work is linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight, with the advantages of opting for public transport delivering marked health benefits for regular commuters – perhaps due to all the unavoidable extra walking activity involved with getting to and from bus stops and train stations.
In new research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2015, researchers from the Moriguchi City Health Examination Centre in Osaka, Japan, found that, compared to car drivers, public transportation users were 44 percent less likely to be overweight, 34 percent less likely to have diabetes, and 27 percent less likely to have high blood pressure.
"People should consider taking public transportation instead of a car, as a part of daily, regular exercise," said Hisako Tsuji, director of the centre and lead author of the study. "It may be useful for healthcare providers to ask patients about how they commute."
The researchers based their data on nearly 6,000 adults who attended the Moriguchi City Health Examination Centre for the purposes of an annual examination and filled out a questionnaire on physical activity and how they got to work.
Interestingly enough, those who indicated they used public transport to get around had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and being overweight even when compared with participants who were cyclists. The researchers theorise that public transportation commuters may have to walk farther to get to and from transport facilities such as bus stops and train station than cyclists opting to ride, who may not have a long route to get to and from work.
Also interesting was the breakdown the researchers noted between who drives and who doesn't. It turns out – in Japan at least, amongst workers with an average age between 49 and 54 years old – most of those who drive to work are men, with more women electing to use public transport or cycling.
While there's no suggestion by the researchers that public transportation is what's directly causing these health improvements – this study is simply pointing out that an association exists as, after all, it's possible the public transport users are just a healthier bunch of people – it adds to a considerable body of evidence highlighting how important even small, daily contributions to physical activity may lead to significant health benefits in the bigger picture.
Something to think about perhaps if the furthest you walk on your own trip to work is from the front door to the driveway…