Take the Train for Your Health

Public transportation use linked to reduced high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity risk


Walk, bike or take the train to work — whichever one you choose, your heart will likely thank you.

A new study from Japan found that taking the train or bus to work instead of driving may be linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

"If it takes longer than 20 minutes one-way to commute by walking or cycling, many people seem to take public transportation or a car in urban areas of Japan," said lead study author Hisako Tsuji, MD, director of the Moriguchi City Health Examination Center, in a press release. "People should consider taking public transportation instead of a car, as a part of daily, regular exercise. It may be useful for healthcare providers to ask patients about how they commute."

For this study, Dr. Tsuji and team compared bus or train commuters to walkers or bikers. Both groups were compared to drivers. Potentially confounding factors, such as age, gender and smoking status, were accounted for.

Compared to drivers, these researchers found that public transportation users were 27 percent less likely to have high blood pressure, 34 percent less likely to have diabetes and 44 percent less likely to be obese.

Interestingly, the public transportation commuters also had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity than the walkers or bikers.

While opting to walk or bicycle to work is already known to benefit heart health, the reason behind the potential link between public transportation use and a lower risk of these conditions remains unclear.

One explanation may be that public transportation users typically walk farther to and from the train or bus station than walkers or bikers travel to and from work, Dr. Tsuji said.

This study was presented Nov. 8 at the American Heart Association's 2015 Scientific Sessions. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.