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Research on how people travel in seven European cities provides further evidence on health benefits of cycling and walking

People who drive as their main form of transport are, on average, 4kg heavier than those who cycle, according to an ongoing Europe-wide study that adds further evidence to the benefits of active travel.

Researchers from the EU-funded Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches (PASTA) project have, so far, monitored 11,000 volunteers in seven European cities, looking at how they get around the city and how much time they spend travelling.

Researchers asked participants to record their height and weight, and to provide information about their attitudes towards walking and cycling. Initial data analysis found those who drive cars as their main form of transport are, on average, 4kg heavier than those who cycle; researchers are looking for more participants in Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Orebro in Sweden, Rome, Vienna and Zurich. 

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Imperial University’s project lead, Dr Audrey de Nazelle, from the Centre for Environmental policy, said: “We don’t have cause and effect yet, but we hope this first finding will encourage more people to take part in the survey so that we can get more data over time and make a link between transport decisions and health.”

“Our research shows that factors like urban design, how we move in cities, and the use of cars, bikes or walking could all play an important role in determining the level of people’s daily physical activity.”

Dr Adrian Davis, a UK transport and health expert and member of PASTA’s advisory board, said: “People who are physically inactive are at higher risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer, stroke and heart attacks, as well as becoming overweight.

“Our research shows that factors like urban design, how we move in cities, and the use of cars, bikes or walking could all play an important role in determining the level of people’s daily physical activity.”

The researchers also want to determine how people make transport decisions, and what measures cities can take to encourage walking and cycling.

Dr de Nazelle said: “Cycling is at low levels in the UK – when you compare that to places like northern Europe you can see there’s really huge potential to increase the levels.”

To take part in the research, sign up at the PASTA project website.