In college, many students walk (or bike) to class. Yet once we leave the Dartmouth bubble, most of us, in our corporate internships or graduate school pursuits, will trade our mobile college lifestyles for a more sedentary one filled with cars and public transportation because they are more accessible. However, a study from the University of Leeds in England suggests that this switch to a sedentary lifestyle is not good for our health. The study, led by Dr. Chris Gale, has found a link between biking or walking to work and lower risks of heart complications1.
In this nationwide study, Dr. Gale and his team examined the medical history of over 43 million working people from the UK census database aged 25-74 years old including 117,521 patients who suffered a myocardial infarction (heart–attack). They found that less than 12% of the sample traveled to work by walking or cycling2. Within this small portion of the sample, there was also a 98.3% association between reduced incidence of myocardial infarctions and active transport in both men and women2. In addition, the data show that both forms of active transportation, walking and cycling, reap the benefits of reducing heart attacks as this statistic was constant for both cyclers and walkers, male and female1. Yet, it is still important to acknowledge other factors such as smoking, overall physical activity, obesity, and diabetes, which play big roles in increasing an individual’s risk for myocardial infarction and other health complications.
Given the statistics from his study, Dr. Gale continues to promote active transport to work. He believes that this link between active travel to work and lower risk of heart attack should incentivize national and local legislatures to make walking and cycling to work more attainable for workers1. Some cities, such as Leeds, England and New York City, have already taken measures to increase the accessibility of biking by creating new bike-only lanes in busy streets. The government of Leeds has already expended over 2 billion euros over the last five years to implement such safety measures and infrastructure for active transport1. And the money used to increase the accessibility of active transport will not only work to benefit national wellbeing, but also contribute to decreasing personal health costs and to helping the environment.
So next time you wished you had a car to save you from a trek to class or work, remember the benefits of active transport on your heart.
Munyombwe, T. et al. (2019). Association of prevalence of active transport to work and incidence of myocardial infarction: A nationwide ecological study. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487319876228
Walking and cycling to work linked with fewer heart attacks. (n.d.) ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191218213915.htm