Wet Morning Commute

Is Your Car Commute Killing You?

Killer traffic. It’s a hyperbolic complaint. Or then again, maybe not. Consider these two factoids. One, the WHO tells us that road accidents are now the biggest killers of young people around the world. And two, new research presented at the 26th European Congress on Obesity tells us that the risk of death is a third higher for folks who commute by car than it is for folks who bike or walk.

Active Commuting

The health benefits of active commuting are no big new surprise. Folks who cycle to work have half the risk of death of folks who sit in a car or bus to get to work. Plus, a new systematic review and meta-analysis finds that active commuters have lower all-risk mortality, heart disease, and diabetes risk.

What’s new in the data at ECO 2019, though, is the observation that active commuting might be helpful even for people with excess weight and obesity. People with obesity who were active commuters had a risk of death similar to normal weight active commuters.

This raises the possibility that cycling or walking to and from work could reduce the detrimental effect of obesity, even without losing any weight. Of course, these data are observational. To confirm an intervention effect, we’d need a controlled study. It’s also worth noting that  the risk of heart disease was still increased in active commuters with obesity compared with normal weight active commuters.

Regardless of all those caveats, a lower risk of death sounds pretty good.

A Compelling Reason to Ditch the Car

Millennials are reportedly falling out of love with cars. Some of those reports are a bit exaggerated, but transportation preferences are clearly changing. So the disaffection is real. And the health implications of car  versus active commuting will only add fuel to this trend. We like it.

Click here for the abstract from ECO 2019 and here for further perspective.

Wet Morning Commute, photograph © Jamie McCaffrey / flickr

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April 29, 2019