September 16, 2014

Ditching the car is associated with weighing less (even controlling for other factors) and better mental wellness.     Photo: Tobias Ackeborn/Thinkstock

Improve Your Life: Don't Drive to Work

Studies show biking, walking, public transportation make you happier, healthier

According to a pair of new British studies, commuting to work by foot, bicycle, or public transit is associated with a boost in both physical and mental health when compared to driving.

A study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine and University College London found that nondrivers weighed less than those who used a car for their commute—about seven pounds for men and about 5.5 pounds for women—even when controlling for factors like overall fitness, diet, and age.

Meanwhile, researchers from the University of East Anglia reported greater mental well-being in commuters who walk, cycle, or use public transit, a finding that might surprise anyone who’s been late to work thanks to an unexpected subway delay.

The authors of both studies credited the positive effects of physical activity. While the health benefits of commuting by bike or on foot may seem obvious, taking the bus or train offers subtle upsides as well. As research fellow Ellen Flint, lead author of the obesity study, explained to Fast Company, “Public transport use involves a greater level of incidental physical activity than we commonly assume.”

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