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Study shows that cycling to work could cut risk of cancer by 45 percent

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Research from the University of Glasgow has highlighted the benefits of cycling and walking to work.

The study, published on Thursday in the BMJ, found that compared to "a non-active commute", riding a bike to work was associated with a 45 percent lower risk of cancer and a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease.

In a news release on Thursday, the university said that the data of more than 264,000 people from the U.K. Biobank project was assessed, with participants asked about the way they went to work and contact maintained with them for five years.

Over the five year period, new cases of heart attacks, cancer and deaths were analysed and then "related to their mode of commuting." The results proved to be of great interest.

"Cycling all or part of the way to work was associated with substantially lower risk of adverse health outcomes," Jason Gill, from the university's Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said in a statement.

"Those who cycled the full length of their commute had an over 40 percent lower risk of heart disease, cancer and overall mortality over the 5 years of follow-up," he added.

Gill went on to add that if the associations were causal, then the findings suggested that policies to make commuting by bike easier, such as cycle lanes and subsidised cycle purchase schemes, "may present major opportunities for public health improvement."

The World Health Organization says that 8.8 million people died from cancer in 2015, and that 30 to 50 percent of cancers could be prevented by a range of factors including regular exercise, keeping a healthy body weight, and cutting alcohol consumption.

In the University of Glasgow study, walking to work was also seen as beneficial, although lagged behind cycling in some aspects.

"Walking to work was associated with lower risk of heart disease, but unlike cycling was not associated with a significantly lower risk of cancer or overall death," the university's Carlos Celis-Morales said.

"This may be because walkers commuted shorter distances than cyclists – typically 6 miles per week, compared with 30 miles per week – and walking is generally a lower intensity of exercise than cycling."