Your morning commute may be deadlier than you think

I live in New York City, where walking is a way of life. And especially now that the warm weather is here, I see no reason to commute anywhere using anything but my own two feet.

But I recognize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for active commuting. (And if this country’s obesity statistics are anything to go on, it’s probably fair to say that most people don’t.)

That’s why I take every opportunity to remind you of just how important it is to keep moving when you can—and not just to and from work, but throughout your entire day. Because when I say it’ll keep you alive, I mean it.

Active commuting cuts death risk in half    

Researchers presented the results of a new study at the European Congress on Obesity in Scotland late last month. And their message is one that everyone needs to hear.

The goal of this study was to investigate the influence that active commuting (whether it’s walking, biking, or a mixture of both) has on the connection between obesity and chronic disease.

Researchers looked at five years’ worth of data from more than 150,000 subjects in the U.K. Biobank. Ages ranged from 37- to 73-years-old. Subjects self-reported their commuting habits, which were then divided into four categories:

  • Active-mixed commuters (people who biked and walked)
  • Bike-only commuters
  • Walking-only commuters
  • Car commuters

Then, researchers factored in health outcomes—specifically, all-cause death, death from heart disease, and hospitalization from non-fatal heart disease.

Ultimately, subjects who were obese car commuters were 32 percent more likely to suffer a premature death from any cause than lean active commuters. They were also twice as likely to die from heart disease. And nearly 60 percent more likely to suffer from non-fatal heart disease.

It’s never too late to start 

These numbers paint a grim picture—but the news isn’t all bad.

Because here’s what else the study found: Obese people who were active commuters were no more likely to die an early death than lean active commuters. That means no matter what your weight, there’s a lot to be gained from staying active.

That isn’t to say that your weight doesn’t matter—obese subjects were still a staggering 82 percent more likely to have heart disease, whether they were active commuters or not. But it’s an important reminder that every step you take toward health counts.

Even if active commuting isn’t feasible for you, just choosing active options whenever you can—like taking the stairs or parking a little further away—will make a huge impact.

Like I always say, small changes add up to big benefits.


“Being a car commuter with obesity linked to a 32% increased early death risk.” Science Daily, 27 April 2019. (