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TUESDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- People who walk to work are 40 percent less likely to develop diabetes and 17 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who drive, according to a new study.
Researchers analyzed data from 20,000 U.K. residents to examine how the ways they traveled to work affected their health.
Walking, cycling and using public transit all were linked to a lower risk of being overweight than driving or taking a taxi. People who bicycled to work were about half as likely to have diabetes as those who commuted by car.
The study also found that 19 percent of people who used private transport -- such as cars, motorcycles or taxis -- to get to work were obese, contrasted with 15 percent of those who walked and 13 percent of those who cycled.
Modes of getting to work varied widely in different parts of the United Kingdom. For example, 52 percent of people in London used public transit, compared with 5 percent in Northern Ireland, according to the study appearing Aug. 6 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
High blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight all are major risk factors for heart and circulatory disease. The new findings show that people could reduce their risks of serious health problems such as heart attacks by avoiding car commutes, the researchers said.
"This study highlights that building physical activity into the daily routine by walking, cycling or using public transport to get to work is good for personal health," Anthony Laverty, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said in a college news release.
"The variations between regions suggest that infrastructure and investment in public transport, walking and cycling can play a large role in encouraging healthy lives, and that encouraging people out of the car can be good for them as well as the environment," he said.
Although the researchers uncovered an association between walking or cycling to work and decreased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, they did not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect link.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Imperial College London, news release, Aug. 6, 2013