UK study says walking or cycling to work rather than driving, beats odds of getting hypertension.
A new study from Imperial College London and University College London has found that people who walk, cycle or take public transport to work have less chance of developing hypertension.

The study, “Active Travel to Work and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in the UK,” used data from the Health Survey for England which included over 20,000 people across the country. This data showed that 62 percent of the adult English population was overweight or obese in 2011, with similar levels in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The prevalence of high blood pressure was estimated at 30 percent in England, with similar figures in Scotland, and at 20 percent in Wales. The prevalence of diabetes ranges from 3.8 percent in Northern Ireland to 5.5 percent in England.

Results from the study showed that compared to people who drive or taxi to work, rates of high blood pressure dropped by 17 percent when participants walked to work and by 50 percent in those who cycled. Those who cycled were also 40 percent less likely to have diabetes. The use of public transport was considered as active travel, as this often involves walking or cycling to interchanges, such as bus stops.

The researchers, whose findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also noted that all active travelers were at a lower risk of being overweight than their driving counterparts: “People who used private transportation methods — cars, taxis, or motorcycles — were obese 19 percent of the time. Those who walked were obese 15 percent of the time, and cyclists 13 percent. Only 12 percent of all 20,458 surveyed reported walking to work on a regular basis. The large majority, 69 percent, said they took some form of private transportation.”

Lead researcher Anthony Laverty, from Imperial College London, said that sprawling suburban and rural areas often make walking impossible or impractical. He said the increasing problem of obesity in the UK and the U.S. could be resolved through a public transportation infrastructure that encourages cycling and walking and thereby, a healthier lifestyle.

The researchers concluded that “increasing active travel should be prioritized within national and local prevention strategies for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

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