People commuting by public transport are also happier than those going by car, say researchers

Cycling or walking to work makes people less stressed and more productive, according to a new study by researchers at two British universities.

Studies have repeatedly shown the health benefits of cycle commuting, and surveys suggest there are psychological ones too.

A notable feature about this latest research, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School and the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York, is the length of the study – 10 years – and the sample size, with data from 18,000 commuters across the UK analysed.

Of those, 73 per cent travelled to work by car, 13 per cent on foot, 11 per cent used public transport and 3 per cent went by bicycle, reports BBC News.

The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, also found that compared to commuting by car, people going to work by public transport also had improved concentration and less stress once at work.

As part of the study, researchers looked in detail at a small group of people who had switched from commuting by car or public transport to more active modes of transport, and discovered that they had become happier once walking or riding to work.

They also assessed factors including sleep disruption, inability to face up to problems, unhappiness and feelings of worthlessness, as well as the impact of level of income, parenthood, changes in relationships and changing jobs or moving house.

Adam Martin of UEA's Norwich Medical School, who led the research, commented: "Our study shows that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological wellbeing. And correspondingly, people feel better when they have a longer walk to work."

However, he said it was “surprising” that people going to work by public transport felt happier than those commuting by car.

"You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress,” he explained.

"But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialise, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up," he added.

A survey of 2,500 cycle commuters published earlier this month to coincide with National Cycle to Work Day found that 89 per cent of them said riding their bike home helped them switch off from the working day, and 66 per cent said that their relationships had improved.

Some 82 per cent of people who pedalled to work also claimed to feel less stressed and around half said riding a bike to work meant they could cope with a heavier workload.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.