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Work Commute Tied to Diabetes, Hypertension Risk

Update Date: Jun 11, 2013 06:31 PM EDT

Walking or cycling to work is a convenient way to help you stay fit and lower your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure.

A new study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, analyzed data from more than 4,000 participants in the Indian Migration Study,

Researchers found that 68.3 percent of people in rural areas bicycled and 11.9 percent of people walked to work.  Researchers found that 15.9 percent of people living in cities and towns cycled to work and 12.5 percent of people walked to work.

Researchers found that half of people who traveled to work by private transport and 38 percent of those who took public transport were overweight, compared with only a quarter of people who people who walked or cycled to work.  The findings revealed similar patterns for rates of hypertension and diabetes.

"This study highlights that walking and cycling to work is not only good for the environment but also good for personal health," lead researcher Drs Christopher Millett, of the School of Public Health at Imperial and the Public Health Foundation of India, said in a statement. "People can get the exercise they need by building physical activity into their travel to work, so they don't need to make extra time for the gym."

The latest findings suggest that encouraging people to use physically active ways of transport could reduce rates of chronic diseases.  Researchers say the study is especially important because rates of diabetes and heart disease are expected to increase dramatically in India and other low-and middle-income countries over the next 20 years.

"Getting more people to use active modes of travel should be integral to strategies to maintain healthy weight and prevent diabetes and heart disease in India," Millett said.

"This should include improving the safety and convenience of walking and bicycling in Indian towns and cities, and also greater investment in public transport, since this travel generally involves walking to bus or train stops," he added.

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