People in India who walk or cycle to work less likely to have high blood pressure, be overweight or diabetic

June 14th, 2013 by Imperial College London

Commuting to work in India (click image to expand - image ©Akuppa John Wigham)

Commuting to work in India (click image to expand – image ©Akuppa John Wigham)

People in India who walk or cycle to work are less likely to be overweight or obese, have diabetes or high blood pressure, a study published by PLOS Medicine has found.

The research suggests that encouraging more people to use physically active modes of transport could reduce rates of important risk factors for many chronic diseases, say the researchers from Imperial College London and the Public Health Foundation of India.

Rates of diabetes and heart disease are projected to increase dramatically in India and other low and middle income countries over the next two decades.

The study, ‘Associations between Active Travel to Work and Overweight, Hypertension, and Diabetes in India: A Cross-Sectional Study‘, analysed physical activity and health information collected from almost 4,000 participants in the Indian Migration Study.

It found that 68.3% of people in rural areas bicycled and 11.9% walked to work, compared with 15.9% cycling and 12.5% walking in towns and cities.

Half of people who travelled to work by private transport and 38% who took public transport were overweight, compared with only a quarter of people who walked or cycled to work.

The study found similar patterns for rates of high blood pressure and diabetes.

Cycling to work or school produces health benefits (click image to expand - image © and taken by Kristian Niemi on 28 February 2013)

Cycling to work or school produces health benefits (click image to expand – image © and taken by Kristian Niemi on 28 February 2013)

“This study highlights that walking and cycling to work is not only good for the environment but also good for personal health,” said Dr Christopher Millett, of the School of Public Health at Imperial and the Public Health Foundation of India, who led the study.

“People can get the exercise they need by building physical activity into their travel to work, so they don’t need to make extra time for the gym.

“Getting more people to use active modes of travel should be integral to strategies to maintain healthy weight and prevent diabetes and heart disease in India.”

“This should include improving the safety and convenience of walking and bicycling in Indian towns and cities, and also greater investment in public transport, since this travel generally involves walking to bus or train stops,” Dr Millett said.

 

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