Active travel to work and cardiovascular risk factors in the United Kingdom

Am J Prev Med. 2013 Sep;45(3):282-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.04.012.


Background: Increasing active travel (walking, cycling, public transport) is increasingly seen as integral to strategies to raise physical activity levels.

Purpose: This study examined (1) sociodemographic correlates of active travel to work and (2) associations between active travel and cardiovascular risk factors in the United Kingdom (UK).

Methods: Data come from Understanding Society, a nationally representative survey of UK residents in 2009/2011, analyzed in 2012. Multinomial logistic regression assessed associations between sociodemographic factors and mode of transport to work. Linear and logistic regression was used to examine associations between mode of travel and overweight/obesity, and having hypertension or diabetes.

Results: A total of 69% of participants traveled to work using private transport, with public transport, walking, and cycling used by 16%, 12%, and 3%, respectively. Use of any active travel was more likely in participants living in London. Black participants were more likely to walk (AOR=1.41, 95% CI=1.08, 1.84) or take public transport (AOR=2.34, 95% CI=1.88, 2.90) to work than whites. Using public transport, walking, or cycling to work was associated with a lower likelihood of being overweight (AOR=0.80, 95% CI=0.54, 0.88 for walking). Walking or cycling was associated with a lower likelihood of having diabetes, and walking was associated with a lower likelihood of having hypertension than private transport (AOR=0.83, 95% CI=0.71, 0.97).

Conclusions: There are wide variations in the mode of travel to work across regions and sociodemographic groups in the UK. The protective association between active travel and cardiovascular risk demonstrated in this nationally representative study adds to growing evidence that concerted policy focus in this area may benefit population health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bicycling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Data Collection
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Transportation / statistics & numerical data*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult