Using two feet or two wheels to get back and forth to work each day could reduce the inflammation that leads to cancer, heart disease and diabetes, new research shows.
So-called “active commuting” — walking or biking to work — for at least 45 minutes daily lowered levels of a blood marker for inflammation called C-reactive protein (CRP), Finnish researchers report.
That was true even after the team factored in any other exercise the active commuters might have been doing.
Avoiding cars and buses to get to work is also good for the planet, they noted.
So, “in addition to climate change mitigation, active commuting could lead to public health benefits,” concluded a team led by Sara Allaouat, a researcher at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio.
It’s normal for people to suffer brief periods of inflammation, which is part of the body’s healthy short-term immune response. However, chronic inflammation lasts for months or years, and prior research has shown that it can raise the risk for a host of common health problems.
Exercise has long been known to reduce inflammation.
In the new study, Allaouat and her colleagues examined the commuting habits and blood CRP levels of over 6,200 middle-aged Finnish workers.
Compared to folks who drove or took transit to work, those who spent at least 45 minutes per days walking or cycling to work had about a 17% drop in their blood CRP levels, the study found.
That benefit only dipped slightly, to a 15.4% drop in CRP levels, when the researchers factored in how much leisure-time exercise the active commuters might have done, or whether they also ate a healthy diet.
Exposure to air pollution — something that might be expected from cycling to work — didn’t significantly alter active commuting’s effect on inflammation, the investigators noted.
It did seem that at least 45 minutes of active commuting was needed for real benefits to emerge.
The findings were published recently in the European Journal of Public Health.
“Our study suggests that regular and somewhat high amount of active commuting may reduce inflammation among adults,” Allaouat said in a university news release. “Promoting walking and cycling to work can lead to population-level health benefits as well as reduced emissions from motorised traffic.”
Find out more about inflammation’s health effects at the Cleveland Clinic.
SOURCE: University of Eastern Finland, news release, Jan. 15, 2024
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