So can jumping on a bus, bike (or just walking) to work really help you lose weight and stay healthy?
Forget traffic jams and the expense of running a car, a new report has revealed those who take the bus to work are slimmer than those stuck behind the wheel for the daily commute. Kerry McKittrick reports
Want a new way to battle the bulge? Then leave the car at home and hop on board a bus. A new report has revealed that how you travel to work can have an impact on your weight.
The latest figures from the study, which was carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, showed that those who travelled to work by bus were on average five pounds lighter than if they were drivers.
With walkers weighing in at seven pounds lighter and cyclists up to 11 pounds less than drivers, there would appear to be a strong case for opting for an alternative means of transport when it comes to your waistline.
Meanwhile, local figures released by Translink also suggest that using public transport is good for your health. They revealed that the walk to and from the bus stop can burn more than 22,000 calories a year and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, type two diabetes, depression and dementia.
We talk to four people about their commute and how it affects their health.
Caeris Armour (25) is a digital marketing executive from Larne. She says:
I get the bus every day to Belfast at 7.28am everyday from Millbrook Park & Ride at Larne. It’s the most convenient bus stop to me and I walk to the Park & Ride. While I could take my car, I enjoy the 25-minute walk, as it is an opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise before I get to work.
The bus takes about 40 minutes to get to Belfast city centre. Although I work near the City Hall, I get off the bus at the Ulster University stop at the bottom of Royal Avenue, so I get another bit of a walk.
My Smartpass costs £131 for 40 journeys each month. If I brought my car, with parking and petrol, it would cost between £200 and £250 each month. The total cost would also depend on where I could find a parking space. A guy I work with spends £8 a day on parking alone. That’s more than my bus journey to and from Larne.
I much prefer catching the bus and it isn’t nearly as time consuming as driving. I work with people who live on the outskirts of Belfast and their journey to work is as long as mine, purely because of the amount of time they have to sit in traffic.
The walk to and from the bus gives me a chance to get outside and move around a bit before I have to sit down in an office all day. It’s also a great way to clear your head. I try to be quite active, so the walk is one more way to fit exercise into my day.
Travelling from Larne every day is a bit of a commute. I lived in Belfast a few years ago, but I found it very lonely. My life is in Larne, so it doesn’t make sense for me to move away.
On the bus, I spend the first 10 minutes going through emails and social media, and the rest of the time I spend reading. Then, when I get into the office I’ve already got a head start and know what will be waiting for me.
Previously, I drove to work — first to the Boucher Road and then to the city centre and there’s no comparison between the two.
The drive into work was so stressful because of traffic, but now I arrive into work feeling relaxed. The bus can also avoid the worst bits of traffic.”
Jennifer Hanratty (32) is a psychology research fellow at Queen's University. She lives in Belfast with her husband, Julian, and they are expecting their first child in May. She says:
I have been cycling for about the last 10 years. I'm not particularly fit, but several years ago I bought a mountain bike from a friend and just loved it. I've been cycle commuting ever since.
When I first started cycling, I lived off the Ormeau Road so it was a really easy commute - it took me no time at all to nip through Botanic Gardens. I didn't have a lot of confidence, so I would have cycled on the pavement to stay out of traffic.
My confidence has grown, though, so I cycle on the road now - I have as much business being there as anyone else.
We live in the Cregagh area, so cycling to work for me means cycling through dense city traffic. There are cycle paths in Belfast but none of them tend to be on the route that I cycle.
It usually takes about 15 minutes to cycle in to work - 20, now that I'm pregnant. I love to cycle, it gives me headspace and I love the feeling of freedom I get on the bike. On the odd days that I have to drive I find it stressful. When I bike it to work I don't have to worry about getting exercise somewhere else, it's part of my day already.
I cycle in all weathers, all year round. I have had one scary incident on the road - a guy pulled out of a junction when he wasn't looking where he was going.
Belfast isn't the best city for cycling but it's certainly a lot better now than it used to be.
Cycling to work means I keep fit for less money, too. My bike cost me £400 thanks to the cycle to work scheme. That's less than the cost of a gym membership which is fine by me."
Victoria Poole (25), is a PR and communications manager. She lives near Scarva, Co Armagh. She says:
I drive to work in Mallusk every day. It takes an hour and 15 minutes for each journey, so that’s two and a half hours a day — I cover about 90 miles.
I get up at about 6.30am each morning to get to work before 8.45am. There isn’t really any other way that I could manage to get to work.
There aren’t any train links or direct buses, so if I tried to do it by public transport then it would probably take even longer.
The one thing I always do when I get home is go for a walk for 45 minutes, or an hour. I’m a big fan of walking, particularly at this time of the year, as the evenings are getting longer.
I also walk at weekends and I do an aerobics class once a week, too, so I tend to do some kind of exercise every day.
I’m very aware that, if I didn’t do that, I would feel terrible, because of all the sitting I have to do at my job and driving to work.
I’ve never considered moving to Belfast to make my commute easier. I was brought up in the countryside and my whole social life is there. It costs around £55 in diesel each week, which is steep enough. I’m quite resigned to having a long commute — the kind of job I’m interested in and career opportunities I’m seeking are mostly based in Belfast.
I used to work in Belfast city centre and that journey was even worse. I could spend almost three hours a day in the car simply because the traffic getting into the city is so bad. Mallusk is further away but the roads are much better.
At this point I’ve been doing it for so long I’m just used to the journey. I’ve always known that I was going to have to travel if I wanted to get a job that I enjoy. It’s become the norm for me now.”
Kathie Edwards (42) is MD of a discount card company in Belfast. She lives in the city with her husband, David and daughter Megan (14). She says:
I walk the 20-minute journey from Gilnahirk to my office in Stormont everyday. I decided to start walking to lose weight, having joined Slimming World a few weeks ago. I have a fitness tracker and my goal is to lose a pound a week.
My target is to do 10,000 steps a day and, so far, I’ve only missed achieving this twice.
There have only been a few times when I’ve had to take the car to work because of a meeting.
When that happens, though, I will park a short distance away so I can get a walk in on the way.
Walking has made a big difference.
I’m losing my pound a week and I’m now doing nearly 20,000 steps a day.
I get into work completely fresh and feeling like I can take on the day.
And walking home means that I get into the house and start doing jobs, instead of just collapsing on the sofa for an hour.
My drive before didn’t take long — just five or 10 minutes.
But I’ve barely spent any money on petrol since I started walking. I even walk to the shops instead of taking the car now.
I walk to work in my office clothes and leave my smart high heels at work, wearing my trainers for the journey.
I did like to walk before, but that would have been a walk in the Mourne Mountains at a weekend and not every day.
Rather than listen to music, I try to be mindful and take in my surroundings and simply enjoy my 20 minutes of fresh air. It’s become me-time and it means I don’t bring work troubles home with me.”