Longitudinal associations of active commuting with body mass index

Prev Med. 2016 Sep;90:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.06.014. Epub 2016 Jun 13.


Objective: To investigate the longitudinal associations between active commuting (walking and cycling to work) and body mass index (BMI).

Method: We used self-reported data on height, weight and active commuting from the Commuting and Health in Cambridge study (2009 to 2012; n=809). We used linear regression to test the associations between: a) maintenance of active commuting over one year and BMI at the end of that year; and b) change in weekly time spent in active commuting and change in BMI over one year.

Results: After adjusting for sociodemographic variables, other physical activity, physical wellbeing and maintenance of walking, those who maintained cycle commuting reported a lower BMI on average at one year follow-up (1.14kg/m(2), 95% CI: 0.30 to 1.98, n=579) than those who never cycled to work. No significant association remained after adjustment for baseline BMI. No significant associations were observed for maintenance of walking. An increase in walking was associated with a reduction in BMI (0.32kg/m(2), 95% CI: 0.03 to 0.62, n=651, after adjustment for co-variates and baseline BMI) only when restricting the analysis to those who did not move. No other significant associations between changes in weekly time spent walking or cycling on the commute and changes in BMI were observed.

Conclusions: This work provides further evidence of the contribution of active commuting, particularly cycling, to preventing weight gain or facilitating weight loss. The findings may be valuable for employees choosing how to commute and engaging employers in the promotion of active travel.

Keywords: Adiposity; Adult; Bicycling; Body mass index; Epidemiology; Motor activity; Obesity; Transportation; Walking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Transportation / methods*
  • United Kingdom
  • Walking / physiology*