Impact of changes in mode of travel to work on changes in Body Mass Index: evidence from the British Household Panel Survey

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

August 15, 2015


Background Active commuting is associated with various health benefits, but little is known about its causal relationship with body
mass index (BMI).

Methods We
used cohort data from three consecutive annual waves of the British
Household Panel Survey, a longitudinal study of nationally
representative households, in
2004/2005 (n=15 791), 2005/2006 and 2006/2007. Participants selected for
the analyses (n=4056)
reported their usual main mode of
travel to work at each time point. Self-reported height and weight were
used to derive BMI
at baseline and after 2 years.
Multivariable linear regression analyses were used to assess
associations between switching
to and from active modes of travel
(over 1 and 2 years) and change in BMI (over 2 years) and to assess
dose–response relationships.

After adjustment for socioeconomic and health-related covariates, the
first analysis (n=3269) showed that switching from
private motor transport to active
travel or public transport (n=179) was associated with a significant
reduction in BMI compared
with continued private motor vehicle
use (n=3090; −0.32 kg/m2, 95% CI −0.60 to −0.05). Larger adjusted effect sizes were associated with switching to active travel (n=109; −0.45 kg/m2,
−0.78 to −0.11), particularly among those who switched within the first
year and those with the longest journeys. The second
analysis (n=787) showed that
switching from active travel or public transport to private motor
transport was associated with
a significant increase in BMI
(0.34 kg/m2, 0.05 to 0.64).

Conclusions Interventions to enable commuters to switch from private motor transport to more active modes of travel could contribute
to reducing population mean BMI.

Published in

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 69 , p.753 -761






Open Access article

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:



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