If you walk or bike somewhere at least once a week*, the answer is yes!
The study credits “active transportation” (mostly biking and walking) regularly with a variety of improved health conditions such as lower BMI and waist circumference, and much lower levels of hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes (up to 30%!).
From the study discussion:
Active transportation is an untapped reservoir of opportunity for physical activity for many U.S. adults. A study using the National Household Transportation Survey found similar low utilization of active transportation, with only 19% of Americans aged ≥5 years reporting walking or bicycling for transportation. In contrast to the U.S., many European countries experience high population levels of active transportation. In Germany, the proportion of individuals reporting any walking or cycling for transportation are two and seven times greater than in the U.S., respectively.These differences are in part due to policies, community planning, and infrastructure design that make active transportation appealing. Implementing similar strategies in the U.S. could have important implications for individuals with time or financial constraints that prohibit leisure-time physical activity or with professions and work environments that are not conducive to occupational physical activity.
The authors finish by noting that their research provides “additional justification for infrastructure and policies that permit and encourage active transportation.”
Is there a little bit of a, “well, duh” factor to this? Yes, probably… but it’s pretty encouraging that instead of just being told “people need to exercise more!” these researchers have come out and identified our infrastructure as a big part of the problem. If we make it easy for people to bike and walk, we’ll have more people biking and walking… and a lot fewer people with health problems.
*And also live in the U.S. of A. Sorry international readers, you’re all wonderful too but these statistics don’t apply to you!