Research revealed that commuters who walk to work are 40% less likely to become diabetic and 17% less likely to have high blood pressure than drivers.
Researchers at Imperial College London and University College London examined how various health indicators related to how people get to work, using data from a survey of 20,000 people across the UK.
Research revealed that commuters who favour cycling, walking, and using public transport are associated with lower risk of being overweight than driving or taking a taxi. Cyclists were around half as likely to have diabetes as drivers.
The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
High blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight are all major risk factors for heart and circulatory disease, the UK's biggest killer.
The researchers said people could reduce their risks of serious health problems such as heart attacks by avoiding using a car.
"This study highlights that building physical activity into the daily routine by walking, cycling or using public transport to get to work is good for personal health ," said Anthony Laverty, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.
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Nineteen per cent of working age adults who use private transport – such as cars, motorbikes or taxis – to get to work were obese, compared to 15% of those who walked and 13% of those who cycled to work.
The study found wide variations in the modes of transport used in different parts of the UK. Public transport was used most in London, at 52%, compared with just five% in Northern Ireland.
"The variations between regions suggest that infrastructure and investment in public transport, walking and cycling can play a large role in encouraging healthy lives, and that encouraging people out of the car can be good for them as well as the environment," said Laverty.