The study shows that cycling is associated with the greatest health benefits, including better mental health, greater vitality and fewer feelings of loneliness.

IF you have been walking to work in an effort to get more exercise, you may consider switching to cycling.

A new European study found that biking is the best urban mode of transport for boosting health.

Led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, the new study gathered data conducted over a period of two years in seven European cities.

The researchers surveyed 8,802 participants in Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Orebro, Rome, Vienna and Zurich.

Questions included what transport modes participants used, including car, motorcycle, public transport, bicycle, electric bicycle as well as walking, how often they used them, and how they perceived their general health.

The researchers also asked participants about their social relations, various aspects of mental health, and their level of vitality, including energy level and fatigue.

The results showed that cycling was the mode of transport associated with the greatest health benefits in every analysis, including better self-perceived general health, better mental health, greater vitality, lower self-perceived stress, and fewer feelings of loneliness.

Walking was the second most beneficial transport mode, associated with good self-perceived general health, greater vitality, and more contact with friends and/or family.

“Previous studies have either analysed transport modes in isolation or compared various transport modes to each other,” commented lead author Ione Avila Palencia.

“Ours is the first study to associate the use of multiple urban transport modes with health effects such as mental health and social contact.

“This approach allowed us to analyse the effects more realistically, since today’s city dwellers tend to use more than one mode of transport.

“It also allowed us to highlight the positive effect of walking, which in previous studies was not very conclusive.”

Results for driving and public transport were not entirely conclusive.

“Driving and public-transport use were associated with poor self-perceived general health when the transport modes were analysed separately, but this effect disappeared in the multiple-mode analyses,” said Palencia.

Cars were also associated with fewer feelings of loneliness in all of the analyses.

“This result is most likely due to the fact that the study population drove very infrequently and most journeys by car were probably for social purposes, such as visiting a family member or a friend,” she said.

The findings were similar in all the seven cities, although Palencia added that the percentage of people who cycle “remains low in all European cities, except in countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, which means that there is plenty of room to increase bicycle use.”

The findings were published in Environment International. AFP

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