Indians who walk or cycle their way to workplace are less likely to be obese or overweight, researchers have found. By using this physically active mode of transport commuters can also significantly slash their risk of having high blood pressure and diabetes, researchers say.

With incidence of diabetes and heart disease on a rise, looking for easy and affordable health management tips is the need of the hour. Rates of diabetes and heart disease are projected to increase dramatically over the next two decades.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Imperial College London and the Public Health Foundation of India analyzed physical activity and health information of over 4,000 participants enrolled for the Indian Migration Study.

While almost more than half of those surveyed were urban dwellers, others hailed from rural India.
Researchers found that 68.3 percent of rural inhabitants bicycled and 11.9 percent walked to work as against 15.9 percent cycling and 12.5 percent walking in urban areas.

Interestingly, 50 percent of the people who traveled to work by private transport and 38 percent who commuted through public transport were obese or overweight, as against 25 percent who walked or cycled to work.

Researchers observed similar patterns for rates of both high blood pressure and diabetes. Users of private and public transport systems were more likely to have higher levels of blood pressure and blood sugar as compared to those who commuted to work walking or cycling.

“This study highlights that walking and cycling to work is not only good for the environment but also good for personal health,” study’s lead researcher, Dr Christopher Millett, from Imperial College London marked. “People can get the exercise they need by building physical activity into their travel to work, so they don’t need to make extra time for the gym.

“Efforts to increase active travel in urban areas and halt declines in rural areas should be integral to strategies to maintain healthy weight and prevent [non-communicable diseases] in India. This should include greater investment in public transport and improving the safety and convenience of bicycling and walking in Indian towns and cities.”

“Specific measures to discourage car use should also be considered and could include carbon rationing, road pricing, car parking restrictions, and reduced speed limits,” researchers added.

The findings of the study are reported in this week’s issue of the journal PLOS Medicine.

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