I admit that headline is a wee bit hyperbolic. But I stand by the power of the commute to keep you healthy! And just last week The New York Times Well blog posted an article highlighting new research that found that "physical activity, even in small doses, may subvert genetic destiny."
The research focused on a particular gene, the "fat-mass and obesity gene" or the FTO gene, that many people carry including 65% of people of European descent. Several studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity lessens the impact of the gene on weight gain.
The study defined physical activity as at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity a week. So if you bicycled 30 minutes (about 5 miles) to work and back home once a week you're set. A brisk walk on your lunch break twice a week or getting off the bus a few stops early can help you meet the mark, too.
The senior researcher, Dr. Ruth Loos, a program leader at the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge, England said the amount of activity required to combat the gene's effects seems to be slight. “You don’t have to run marathons or work out in the gym,” she says. “Walking the dog, cycling to work, weeding the garden — those all count” and should provide enough moderate to vigorous physical activity to reap benefits.