Getting to work this way could lead to a 32% chance of an early death, if you’re obese

Previous studies have shown that “active commuting,” like bicycling, to be linked to a 50% lower risk of death in comparison to driving.

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If you’re obese and you drive to work, you’re at a significantly increased risk of premature death, new research presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, Scotland, in a release. The research, from the University of Glasgow, showed that obese car commuters had a 32% higher risk of death in comparison to people at normal weights who commuted by bicycling or walking. Being obese and driving to work was also shown to double the risk of fatal heart disease, as well as present a 59% increase in non-fatal heart disease.

Previous studies have shown that “active commuting,” like bicycling, to be linked to a 50% lower risk of death in comparison to driving.


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The new research, using anonymized statistics of over 160,000 British people via UK Biobank data, looked to discover how different types of commuting might improve outcomes for the obese. Fifty-seven percent of men and 66% of women in the UK are overweight or obese.

Researchers at the British Heart Foundation Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Glasgow drew their conclusions from data on selected participants in the UK. Biobank who reported they commuted to work by car, on foot, or by bicycle. The participants were followed up on over five years.

On a hopeful note, the people in the study with obesity who did not commute by car – who cycled or walked instead – had a risk of death that was similar to the risk of commuters of normal weight. (The risk of heart disease was still there for the active commuters with obesity, however. It was increased by 82% in comparison with active commuters of normal weight).

“Our findings, if causal, suggest that people with overweight or obesity could potentially decrease the risk of premature mortality if they engage in active commuting,” wrote the study’s authors.

However, this might work a little better in Britain, whose obesity rate is 27% compared to the United States’ 40%.

Commutes have been shown to be detrimental in a number of other ways. Long commutes have been linked in other research with poor health, like obesity, sleep deprivation, high blood pressure, and back and neck pain. They’ve also been shown to be potentially dangerous for pregnant women, with the risk of having babies born premature or underweight the longer the commute.


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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.