Walking or cycling to work linked to health benefits in India

June 11, 2013

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 has found.

These findings suggest 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, published in PLOS Medicine, analysed physical activity and health information collected from almost 4,000 participants in the Indian Migration Study.

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

Half of people who travelled to work by private transport and 38 per cent 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.

"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."
-end-
For further information please contact:

Sam Wong
Research Media Officer
Imperial College London
Email: sam.wong@imperial.ac.uk
Tel: +44(0)20 7594 2198
Out of hours duty press officer: +44(0)7803 886 248

Notes to editors

1. Millett C, Agrawal S, Sullivan R, Vaz M, Kurpad A, et al. (2013) Associations between Active Travel to Work and Overweight, Hypertension, and Diabetes in India: A Cross-Sectional Study. PLoS Med 10(6): e1001459. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001459

For press before embargo: http://www.plos.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/plme-10-06-Millett.pdf

For public after embargo: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001459

2. About Imperial College London

Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial's contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable sources of energy and address security challenges.

In 2007, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust formed the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre. This unique partnership aims to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible.

Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk

Imperial College London

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