Adding a few miles of biking each day to your commute might add years to your life span, new research suggests.
The British study found that bicycling to work appeared to halve people’s odds for serious disease and premature death.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland looked at the commuting habits of more than 264,000 people in the United Kingdom and tracked their health over five years.
Cycling to work was associated with a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease over five years and a 45 percent lower risk of cancer compared to a sedentary commute. Risk of premature death was 41 percent lower.
Walking to work was also beneficial, but not to the same degree.
Hoofing it was associated with a 27 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 36 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. However, it wasn’t linked with a lower risk of cancer or premature death, the study found.
The study doesn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between commuting by bike and longevity.
Still, “if these associations are causal, these findings suggest that policies designed to make it easier for people to commute by bike … may present major opportunities for public health improvement,” said researcher Dr. Jason Gill in a university news release. He’s with the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences.
Gill suggested bike lanes, city bike-sharing, subsidized bicycle purchases and increased accommodation of bicycles on public transit.
The researchers said cycle commuting may offer greater health benefits than walking because cyclists cover longer distances, get more intense exercise, and have higher levels of fitness than walkers.
For example, cyclists commuted an average of 30 miles a week, compared with 6 miles a week for walkers.
The study was published April 20 in the journal BMJ.
The League of American Bicyclists has more on cycle commuting.