The National Benefits Hub

Research that Supports Recreation

← Home

Advanced Search

Active Commuting and Obesity in Mid-life

Key Message

Walking, cycling or taking public transit to work help middle-aged adults lose body fat and weight, new research suggests, with bicycle commuting offering the greatest benefits compared to using a car.


Flint, Ellen and Cummins, Steven. (2016). Active commuting and obesity in mid-life: cross-sectional, observational evidence from UK Biobank. The Lancet Diabet & Endocrinology. Published online 16 March 2016. DOI:


Physical inactivity is a leading cause of obesity and premature mortality. We aimed to examine the relation between active commuting and obesity in mid-life using objectively measured anthropometric data from UK Biobank.


Final complete case sample sizes were 72 999 men and 83 667 women for the BMI outcome and 72 139 men and 82 788 women for the percentage body fat outcome. Active commuting was significantly and independently associated with reduced BMI and percentage body fat for both sexes, with a graded pattern apparent across the seven commuting categories. In fully adjusted models, compared with their car-only counterparts, mixed public and active transport commuters had significantly lower BMI (men: β coefficient −1·00 kg/m2 [95% CI −1·14 to −0·87], p<0·0001; women: −0·67 kg/m2 [–0·86 to −0·47], p<0·0001), as did cycling or cycling and walking commuters (men: −1·71 kg/m2 [95% CI −1·86 to −1·56], p<0·0001; women: −1·65 kg/m2 [–1·92 to −1·38], p<0·0001). Similarly, compared with car-only commuters, mixed public transport and active commuters had significantly lower percentage body fat (men: −1·32% [95% CI −1·53 to −1·12], p<0·0001; women: −1·10% [–1·40 to −0·81], p<0·0001), as did cycling or cycling and walking commuters (men: −2·75% [95% CI −3·03 to −2·48], p<0·0001; women: −3·26% [–3·80 to −2·71], p<0·0001).

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

Get Updates By Email