Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine compared different modes of travel on more than 150,000 participants. They confirm that cycling remains one of the most effective exercises for maintaining or losing weight.

Physical activity above all. The study first showed that even if the participants who go to work by bicycle, for example, have a lower BMI (Body Mass Index) than their colleagues who walk, overall all those who do not use the car or public transport have a reduced body fat percentage.

The researchers worked from the UK Biobank, a database set up with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases. They compared the BMI percentage and body fat of more than 150,000 British men and women, aged 40 to 69, and their usual mode of transport.

Here, their analysis assessed the relationship between mode of transportation and obesity risk in this sample. The analysis shows that the most common means of transport remains the car or public transport (64% of men, 61% of women). Active transport (walking, cycling) concerns only 23% of men and 24% of women.

Cyclists are on average 5 kg less than others

Participants who travel by bicycle are also those with the lowest BMI. Male cyclists have a BMI reduced by 1.71 kg/m2 and female cyclists a BMI reduced by 1.65 kg/m2, compared to their counterparts who only use passive transport.

Concretely, for a man of average age and weight in the study (53 years, 1.76m, 86 kg), this conclusion is equivalent to a substantial difference in weight of 5 kg.

The body fat rate is also lower for cyclists, being reduced by 2.75% for men and 3.26% for women. But all the other active modes of travel also make it possible to significantly reduce BMI and body fat.

Even if it is an observation study, which shows the association of active transport and reduction of the risk of overweight and obesity, these data obtained on a very large sample, remind us of the importance of exploiting each occasion, in a sedentary way of life and in the daily routine, to practice a little exercise.


Dr Ellen Flint: Active commuting and obesity in mid-life: cross-sectional, observational evidence from UK Biobank The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Active commuting and obesity in mid-life: cross-sectional, observational evidence from UK. Biobank Volume 4, No. 5, p420-435,

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