Cycling to work could help you live longer, 15-year study of 3.5 million Kiwis finds

Waking up a little earlier to cycle to work could be keeping you alive longer.

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A new study by researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington, the University of Melbourne and the University of Auckland has found that people who cycle to work could have a lower risk of dying early.

Lead researcher Dr Caroline Shaw from the University of Otago, Wellington, says people who cycled to work had a 13 per cent reduction in mortality during the study, likely as a result of the health benefits of physical activity.

There was no reduction in mortality for those who walked or took public transport to work.

The researchers used data from the New Zealand Census-Mortality Study, which links census and mortality records.

Dr Shaw says the study, which analysed data from 3.5 million New Zealanders, is one of the largest ever cohort studies to examine the association between mode of travel to work and mortality outcomes.

“We studied 80 per cent of the working-age population of New Zealand over a 15-year period, so it is highly representative,” says Ms Shaw.

Ms Shaw says increasing ‘active transport’ is being promoted as a way of addressing health and environmental issues, but the association between different modes of transport, such as cycling, walking and public transport, and health outcomes has remained unclear.

The study found more than 80 per cent of people in New Zealand traveled to work by car on census day, with only five per cent walking and three per cent cycling.

Ms Shaw says the findings help support initiatives to increase the number of people traveling to work by bike.

“Increasing cycling for commuting to work in a country with low levels of cycling like New Zealand will require policies directed at both transport and urban planning, such as increasing housing density and implementing cycling networks,” says Dr Shaw.