A Simple Bus Ride May Decrease Health Risks

Riding the bus to work

Commuting to work is something that all of us do, many of us at least five times a week. Some of us walk or bike, many of us take a bus or train, and still more of us drive to and from our place of employment each day.

Based on the methods of transport listed above, it may seem obvious to conclude that walking or biking is the healthiest way of commuting to our jobs. However, new research from Japanese doctor Hisako Tsuji indicates that riding the train or bus each day may actually be the healthiest form of daily transportation for us.

According to a recent study, it appears that those who travel by public transportation are twenty-seven percent less likely to have high blood pressure, have thirty-four percent fewer cases of diabetes, and are less likely to be overweight by 44% compared to others.

When compared to drivers, this does seem to make sense; but surprisingly, people who commute to work via public transportation also proved to have similarly reduced levels of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure compared to those who rode a bike or walked to work as well.

An estimated 610,000 people in the US die each year from heart disease. Given that obesity and high blood pressure are prominent risk factors, many Americans may want to assess how they travel to work, and give up their driving in favor of a local train or bus. It should be noted though that the study was only conducted with a Japanese population, so the results may not transfer directly to the US populace. Regardless, the findings certainly merit further inspection.

The results of this study were presented this year in Orlando, Florida at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.

To create his data, Dr. Tsuji assembled a group of 5,908 Japanese adults with an average age between 49 and 54 years. They were given a health examination, and then asked how they travel to work each day. Based on their responses, they were placed into one of three groups: walkers and cyclists, drivers, and those who take the train or bus.

In an attempt to understand his findings, Dr. Tsuji explains that for those who use public transportation, the walk to and from the bus stop or train station may actually be longer than the distance traveled by those who chose to walk or ride a bike. It may also be possible that because riding a bus or train allows time for reading and some relaxing, decreased stress compared to driving helped lower health risks (http://www.coastbus.org/howtoride2.html).

Dr. Tsuji feels like health care providers may want to consider the method of transit a patient uses for work during an evaluation. His team plans to pursue this research further.