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Middle-aged cycle commuters typically 4-5kg lighter than those who drive to work

Public transport also shown to offer health benefits over driving

Middle-aged men who cycle to work are on average 5kg (11lbs) lighter than those who drive, while the difference for women in the same age range is 4.4kg (9.7lbs). The figures come from a new study carried out at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine using data from over 150,000 individuals.

The Independent reports that the data comes from the UK Biobank data set, a study of around half a million UK people aged between 40 and 60. Cyclists were found to be the leanest commuters, while those who only commute by car had the highest percentage body fat and body mass index (BMI).

CTC says half of UK commuters live within 5-mile bike ride of work (+ video)

Lead author Dr Ellen Flint, Lecturer in Population Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that benefits could also be seen from walking or taking public transport.

“Compared with commuting by car, we found that public transport, walking and cycling, or a mix of all three, are associated with reductions in body mass and body fat percentage – even when accounting for demographic and socioeconomic factors.

"Many people live too far from their workplace for walking or cycling to be feasible, but even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport can have an important effect."

Last year, research by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) showed that making a change from driving to work to cycling, walking or even using public transport resulted in the average person losing about 1kg (2lb). Cycle commutes of over half an hour were shown to be even more beneficial with members of the test group losing around 7kg (16lb).

Researchers also found that the further a person walked or cycled, the lower their percentage of body fat. However, a recent US study found that those who undertake moderate levels of activity will typically burn as many calories as those who do significantly more.

Researchers concluded that metabolism adapts to the volume of exercise a person does so that effort beyond a certain ‘sweet spot’ does not require additional energy. While those who led moderate lifestyles – cycling to work or visiting the gym twice a week – burned 200 calories more than those who were more sedentary, it was found that the number of calories burnt plateaued among those who exercised more.

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17 comments

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BBB | 7 years ago
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Re:  JeevesBath and Brooksby

Go easy on me guys. Perhaps I haven't chosen the words too carefuly  3

What I was trying to say was that "commuting" per se doesn't guarantee uber fitness and flat stomach as it depends on intensity volume and CONSISENTCY just like with any form of exercise.

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srchar | 7 years ago
2 likes

The state of the tube made me take up cycle commuting back in 2006. Since then, it's become even more crowded down there, the summers are warmer/muggier and the chance of being blown up has increased.

Many people at work think I'm mad to cycle even ten miles each way in all weathers. If you ask me, the mad ones are those paying through the nose to sit on a crowded tube for an hour or more, with the odd change/scrum thrown in, for a ten mile journey to work.

The rise of cycle commuting in London is about how unbearable the public transport network has become as much as it is about the pleasure of cycling. Which, depending on your route in, can be very little!

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jollygoodvelo | 7 years ago
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I live in Zone 6, 14 miles from work in Zone 1 London, and as far as I'm concerned the cost of parking, congestion charge, and so on means the car is not a feasible option unless you're a high earner or extremely lucky - parking at work, electric car etc.  That ship sailed some time ago.  And even in an electric car you're going to be sitting in (and contributing to) traffic.

 

So it's bus or tube, or cycling.  To my shame I've been using the tube almost exclusively for a while, but recent unreliability, the unrelenting cost, continual exposure to disease and small though significant chance of being blown up by a nutjob mean I really should be cycling, however long it takes.  I was stood freezing my bits off in the sleet waiting for a tube last night, thinking that cycling would still have been preferable.

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Silver Rider | 7 years ago
2 likes

I've gone from 87kg to between 70-75kg since starting to commute routinely by bike four years ago.  On the downside I'm now having a harder time squeezing my thigh muscles into skinny jeans, but maybe I'm too old for that sort of thing anyway.

It's about 15 minutes faster than driving in traffic too.

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BBB | 7 years ago
0 likes

There is commuting and there is commuting...

Plodding at 12-15 mph 5 miles each way without breaking the sweat will be different from clocking 30-40miles round trips at reasonably high intensity...

The effect on metabolism, appetite and weight management is quite diffetent.

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JeevesBath replied to BBB | 7 years ago
4 likes
BBB wrote:

There is commuting and there is commuting... Plodding at 12-15 mph 5 miles each way without breaking the sweat will be different from clocking 30-40miles round trips at reasonably high intensity... The effect on metabolism, appetite and weight management is quite diffetent.

You know how to shatter a bloke's ego - on my 15 mile commute (each way) I average about 15mph over the whole journey and I definately sweat. But apparently now I'm just 'plodding'.... indecision

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brooksby replied to BBB | 7 years ago
3 likes
BBB wrote:

There is commuting and there is commuting... Plodding at 12-15 mph 5 miles each way without breaking the sweat will be different from clocking 30-40miles round trips at reasonably high intensity... The effect on metabolism, appetite and weight management is quite diffetent.

Looks like we're back into the "real cyclist" debate.  I'd always believed that because I was commuting on a bicycle then I was a cycle commuter.  I do a typical 6.5 out, 9.5 back (different route), averaging 13 mph. Do tell: am I a real cycle commuter or just some plodder? surprise

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wycombewheeler | 7 years ago
1 like

I definately lost weight, but reached a plateau fairly quickly, as either the body becomes more efficient at working, or food intake increased due to additonal appetite.

Although waist size dropped more than body weight  (increased leg muscles) so it isn't all bad.

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Awavey | 7 years ago
3 likes

well I gained more than a stone of weight when I became a reborn again cyclist commuting + sunday rides,because I began eating constantly to stave off the hunger pangs I was getting, it was only when I paid more attention to pre/post ride nutrition, that I started to slowly lose that weight. but cycling alone doesnt shift weight at all IMO, its far more to do with what and how much you eat.

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BrianMcMahon | 7 years ago
0 likes

Went from 115kg to 95kg after starting cycling to work, this year i should drop more as i can fit more days in during the week.  My ride is only 8 miles which i can pull off in 31 mins when being chased by buses along some of the route.  Car is shorter but less fun.

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swldxer | 7 years ago
1 like

I used to commute 25 miles a day at age 55 before I retired. I have gone from 11st 11lbs to 13st 2lbs since 2013.

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Edgeley | 7 years ago
1 like

Correlation is not of course causation.

 

It is just as likely that people who are thinner cycle (or walk) than that the cycling causes the thinness. 

 

Not that it matters.   Cycling is good.   Driving generally isn't.

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Oldfield | 7 years ago
2 likes

An acceptable commute - depends on the road type/elevation/time you want to spend on the bike vs car. 

My current commute by car is at least 15 miles and takes 30-40 minutes depending on traffic/tractors. I would not ride my bike along the same roads for most of the distance. I think it'd be more like 20 miles on a bike, with much more elevation to avoid the horrendous A61 between Ripon and Harrogate. It's fine in a car, but wouldn't want to do it on a bike. 
I'd give 90 mins as a time for the bike commute, including a buffer zone. 

I don't think [my body] would get used to that commute quickly  1 

If I was in a city, I'd probably commute via bike as it would be faster. And probably flatter. 

 

 

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Dnnnnnn replied to Oldfield | 7 years ago
0 likes
Oldfield wrote:

If I was in a city, I'd probably commute via bike as it would be faster. And probably flatter. 

That's a large part of why cycling is taking off in London. It needs a push in other large cities too, partly because "horrendous" roads do put people off. Shame the government has just completely ducked the challenge...

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jasecd | 7 years ago
3 likes

"Many people live too far from their workplace for walking or cycling to be feasible" - do they really or do they just need some decent incentives to get out of their cars?

What's an acceptable commute? I'd say if you can get there quicker by bike, which has got to be between 10 and 15 miles in a city or town.

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brooksby replied to jasecd | 7 years ago
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jasecd wrote:

What's an acceptable commute? I'd say if you can get there quicker by bike, which has got to be between 10 and 15 miles in a city or town.

Stupid thing is, if I leave the door at the same time in the morning and either get on the next bus or get on my bike, I actually get to the office quicker by bus 95% of the time (only 6.5 miles-ish, but - in my defence - there's a few hills between my village and the city centre...).   But cycling is still my default mode for commuting.

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Andrewwd replied to jasecd | 7 years ago
3 likes
jasecd wrote:

"Many people live too far from their workplace for walking or cycling to be feasible" - do they really or do they just need some decent incentives to get out of their cars?

What's an acceptable commute? I'd say if you can get there quicker by bike, which has got to be between 10 and 15 miles in a city or town.

 

Quick look on the ONS site at the 2011 census data tells us that 58% of males and 70% of females commute less than 10km (6.2miles), a distance which should be manageable on bike.

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons....

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