Be active: Walking, cycling to work improves mental health

  • PTI, London
  • Updated: Sep 15, 2014 14:41 IST

Walking or cycling to work is better for people's mental health than driving, according to a new UK study.

The study by the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) shows that people who stopped driving and started walking or cycling to work benefited from improved wellbeing.

In particular, active commuters were better able to concentrate and were less under strain than if they travelled by car, researchers said.

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These benefits come on top of the physical health benefits of walking and cycling that are already widely documented, they said.

Experts also found that travelling on public transport is better for people's psychological wellbeing than driving.

"One surprising finding was that commuters reported feeling better when travelling by public transport, compared to driving. You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress," lead researcher Adam Martin, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said.

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"But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialise, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up," said Martin.

The research team studied 18 years of data on almost 18,000 18-65-year-old commuters in Britain.

The data allowed them to look at multiple aspects of psychological health including feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness, sleepless nights, and being unable to face problems.

The researchers also accounted for numerous factors known to affect wellbeing, including income, having children, moving house or job, and relationship changes.

The study also shows commute time to be important.

"Our study shows that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological wellbeing. And correspondingly, people feel better when they have a longer walk to work," Martin said.

The study was published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

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