New research shows workers who commute by foot for at least 45 minutes in total – or just over 20 minutes each way – have better cardiovascular health than those relying on cars or public transport.
Blood tests revealed they had much lower levels of C-reactive protein, a harmful molecule known to be linked with a raised risk of blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Elevated CRP levels can indicate dangerous inflammation in arteries supplying the heart and brain with oxygen-rich blood.
It’s well known that regular brisk walking is good for the heart.
But researchers at the University of Eastern Finland wanted to see how much time workers need to spend commuting by foot to reap the benefits.
They tracked more than 6,000 working men and women to see how they got to work and back.
The volunteers also had blood tests to measure their C-reactive protein levels.
The results, published in the European Journal of Public Health, showed a daily 15-minute round-trip (or just over seven minutes each way) led to a small reduction – about seven per cent – in CRP levels, compared to those who drove or used public transport.
Researchers said this was unlikely to have a big impact on heart health.
But those walking for 45 minutes – or just over 20 minutes each way – had CRP levels almost 18 per cent lower than other commuters.
The findings could act as a wake-up call for millions of people in the UK who currently get to and from work by car, bus or train.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows just over 45 per cent of the UK’s workforce currently drives to and from the office.
Only seven per cent walk.
And a 2018 poll of 2,000 adults in the UK found 40 per cent thought a 30-minute walk to any destination was too far to do on foot – instead they would drive or use some other form of transport.
In a report on their findings researchers said so-called ‘active commuting’ such as walking could make a huge difference to employees’ health.
“Forty-five minutes a day is associated with lower levels of inflammation, they said.
“Promoting active modes of transport such as walking could lead to population-level health benefits.”