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Public transport also shown to offer health benefits over driving

Middle-aged men who cycle to work are on average 5kg (11lbs) lighter than those who drive, while the difference for women in the same age range is 4.4kg (9.7lbs). The figures come from a new study carried out at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine using data from over 150,000 individuals.

The Independent reports that the data comes from the UK Biobank data set, a study of around half a million UK people aged between 40 and 60. Cyclists were found to be the leanest commuters, while those who only commute by car had the highest percentage body fat and body mass index (BMI).

CTC says half of UK commuters live within 5-mile bike ride of work (+ video)

Lead author Dr Ellen Flint, Lecturer in Population Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that benefits could also be seen from walking or taking public transport.

“Compared with commuting by car, we found that public transport, walking and cycling, or a mix of all three, are associated with reductions in body mass and body fat percentage – even when accounting for demographic and socioeconomic factors.

"Many people live too far from their workplace for walking or cycling to be feasible, but even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport can have an important effect."

Last year, research by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) showed that making a change from driving to work to cycling, walking or even using public transport resulted in the average person losing about 1kg (2lb). Cycle commutes of over half an hour were shown to be even more beneficial with members of the test group losing around 7kg (16lb).

Researchers also found that the further a person walked or cycled, the lower their percentage of body fat. However, a recent US study found that those who undertake moderate levels of activity will typically burn as many calories as those who do significantly more.

Researchers concluded that metabolism adapts to the volume of exercise a person does so that effort beyond a certain ‘sweet spot’ does not require additional energy. While those who led moderate lifestyles – cycling to work or visiting the gym twice a week – burned 200 calories more than those who were more sedentary, it was found that the number of calories burnt plateaued among those who exercised more.

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