Associations between active travel and diet: cross-sectional evidence on healthy, low-carbon behaviours from UK Biobank

Michaela A. Smith (Lead / Corresponding author), Jan Rasmus Boehnke, Hilary Graham, Piran C. L. White, Stephanie L. Prady

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    2 Citations (Scopus)
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    Objectives: To examine whether there are associations between active travel and markers of a healthy, low-carbon (HLC) diet (increased consumption of fruit and vegetables (FV), reduced consumption of red and processed meat (RPM)).

    Design: Cross-sectional analysis of a cohort study.

    Settings: Population cohort of over 500 000 people recruited from 22 centres across the UK. Participants aged between 40 and 69 years were recruited between 2006 and 2010.

    Participants: 412 299 adults with complete data on travel mode use, consumption of FV and RPM, and sociodemographic covariates were included in the analysis.

    Exposure measures: Mutually exclusive mode or mode combinations of travel (car, public transport, walking, cycling) for non-work and commuting journeys.

    Outcome measures: Consumption of FV measured as portions per day and RPM measured as frequency per week.

    Results: Engaging in all types of active travel was positively associated with higher FV consumption and negatively associated with more frequent RPM consumption. Cycling exclusively or in combination with walking was most strongly associated with increased dietary consumption of FV and reduced consumption of RPM for both non-work and commuting journeys. Overall, the strongest associations were between non-work cycling and FV consumption (males: adjusted OR=2.18, 95% CI 2.06 to 2.30; females: adjusted OR=2.50, 95% CI 2.31 to 2.71) and non-work cycling and RPM consumption (males: adjusted OR=0.57, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.60; females: adjusted OR=0.54, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.59). Associations were generally similar for both commuting and non-work travel, and were robust to adjustment with sociodemographic and behavioural factors.

    Conclusions: There are strong associations between engaging in active travel, particularly cycling, and HLC dietary consumption, suggesting that these HLC behaviours are related. Further research is needed to better understand the drivers and dynamics between these behaviours within individuals, and whether they share common underlying causes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number030741
    Number of pages12
    JournalBMJ Open
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2019


    • active travel
    • diet
    • epidemiology
    • preventive medicine
    • public health

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Medicine


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