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Walking, biking to work may boost mental health

Trading the gas pedal for foot power or bike power to get to your job can also improve your mental health, British researchers report.

Daily commuters who stopping driving to work and started walking or riding a bike were under less stress and were able to concentrate better, the study showed.

And the authors noted that using public transportation also resulted in an improvement in commuters' psychological well-being.

"One surprising finding was that commuters reported feeling better when traveling by public transport, compared to driving," lead researcher Adam Martin, from the University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School, said in a university news release.

"You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress," Martin added. "But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialize, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up."

For the study, the researchers analyzed 18 years of data compiled on almost 18,000 commuters in Britain who were between the ages of 18 and 65.

Specifically, they considered the commuters' feelings of worthlessness and unhappiness, their sleep quality and whether they had trouble dealing with their problems.

The researchers also weighed other factors known to cause strain or affect people's well-being, such as income, relationships, children, moving and changing jobs.

The amount of time spent commuting also affects their mental health, the research published Sept. 15 in Preventive Medicine found. Although a long car commute has a negative effect on well-being, a physically active commute has the opposite effect.

"Our study shows that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological well-being. And correspondingly, people feel better when they have a longer walk to work," Martin said.

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