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Taking Public Transport to Office can Work Wonders for Your Heart

While you may have your reasons to drive your own vehicle wherever you go, travelling by public transport offers immense health benefits. 
​Jeevan Ramamurthy was trying hard to rev up his bike’s speed — he was tense because it was getting late to office and he was stuck in a drizzle-induced traffic mess. In a split-second, the truck in front of him braked and he almost slipped while stopping his two-wheeler on the potholed road. Though his heart missed a beat, he regained composure. Just then he saw a metro train gliding by on an elevated lane along the road. He wondered how comfortable his ride could have been had he taken the public transport. 
He gave it a serious thought and made the shift in quick time. It wasn’t just on comfort that Jeevan gained an advantage. What he didn’t know was that his health too would benefit if he kept up his metro commute long term. 


Studies have found that use of public transport pushes people to walk more. Dr Rajesh Maheswaran, GM-marketing (institutional business), at pharma company Strides Shasun, showed a research which examined the use of public transport and physical activity. The report found that use of public transport was associated with an additional 8 to 33 minutes of walking per day. 
Another study found that train commuters took an average of 30% more steps per day than car commuters. Well, you know walking is good for your heart and general well-being.
Dr MS Dharmendra, consultant psychiatrist with Manasa Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Bengaluru, said: “There is no doubt that in comparison to personal transport, public transport confers a significant advantage to psychological and physical health. This has been demonstrated in western countries and it should not be different in the Indian context.” Dr Vivek Padegal, director of respiratory medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru, said: “Dense vehicular traffic increases pollution, which contributes to cardiovascular and lung diseases and increases mortality.” When you hop on to public transport, your exposure is much lesser. 


Spared of road rage, you feel relaxed, adding to your mental health quality. 
Padegal said: “The very act of driving can be stressful and stress can lead to worsening hypertension.” According to Dharmendra, people experience less stress when they use public transport. Of course, you have to leave on time to make it to your bus or train and not end up at the station puffing and panting. 


On another plane, deaths due to road incidents are much lesser when more and more people ditch their personal vehicles and take to buses and trains. Maheswaran said: “An analysis of the transportation fatality risk in the United States found that fatality rates per billion passenger miles travelled between 2000 and 2009 were 0.11 for buses, 0.24 for urban mass transit rail trains, 0.43 for passengers on commuter rails, and 7.28 for drivers or passengers  on commuter rails, and 7.28 for drivers or passengers in a car or a light truck.” 


You can do your bit to make your city less polluted and leave a much smaller carbon footprint if you opt for public transport. 
Maheswaran quoted studies done in the US to show that for every passenger mile travelled, public transportation produces only a fraction of harmful pollution compared to private vehicles: only 5% as much carbon monoxide, less than 8% as many volatile organic compounds and nearly half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. 
It is ironic that we aspire for the cool confines of an air-conditioned car to avoid air pollution despite knowing that automobiles taint the air, said Maheswaran, proffering numbers again: “India had around 191.7 million registered vehicles as of March 31, 2016 (Source: Vahan Database). The compounded annual growth rate of total registered motor vehicles in India from 2011 to 2016 was 94.40%.” 


Citizens have few reliable options when it comes to mobility, said Dr Sheshachala S of Dhanwantari Clinic, Bengaluru. “Despite knowing the negative effects of stress and respiratory ills, people are compelled to take their vehicles out on account of poor public transport,” he added. 
Padegal concurred: “People will go with what is convenient and time-efficient. Personal transport will be the preferred mode in India until the ground reality improves. Increasing the price of cars and petroleum has, in my opinion, a limited impact on the use of personal vehicles.” 


The government has to prioritise public transport, especially in congested cities, suggested Dharmendra. 
“Governments should seriously consider subsidising public transport. It will offset the cost of providing healthcare services. In terms of health, prevention is always better than cure. Good public transport system does confer significant health advantages to the community. India is a developing country and we can see rapid strides being made in various fields. Health needs of its citizens should not be ignored,” he added. Padegal, while opining that public transportation in India is already heavily subsidised, had this to say: “Smart use of technology and common sense will probably go a long way in improving mobility issues of India”.