Those classed as obese could have the same life expectancy as those with a “healthy” weight if they simply switch up their commute, new research shows.

Adults with a body mass index (BMI) above 30 were 32 per cent more likely to die of any cause within within five years if they drove to work, compared to those who walk or cycle to work – regardless of weight.

The researchers, from the University of Glasgow, presented the study at the European Congress on Obesity this week.

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They said their findings could “suggest that people with overweight or obesity could potentially decrease the risk of premature mortality if they engage in active commuting”.

The risk of developing heart disease was still found to be 82 per cent higher in people classified as obese.

The study followed more than 163,000 individuals, who self-reported on their commute, for five years. The age range was 37 to 73 years and was evenly split between men and women.

The authors explain than compared to other forms of physical activity – such as gyms and exercises classes – “active commuting” has a number of benefits, as it “can be implemented and fitted within our daily routines, often with no additional cost, but at the same time could increase our overall physical activity levels and therefore help to meet the current physical activity recommendations for health".

The data comes amid heated rows around the link between obesity and health, with body positivity campaigners arguing the assumption is a form of fat-shaming.

Last year, Cosmopolitan featured plus-size model Tess Holliday on the cover of its October edition, sparking controversy, with some people seeing it as a huge step forward for body acceptance, while others worried it was normalising obesity.

Regarding speculation about her health, Holliday has said that her critics are referring to “an imagined health, not an actual health”.

She said: “People don’t actually care if I’m healthy, it’s just them using it as a blanket to be an a**hole.”

In an article published in the Huffington Post last year entitled ‘Everything you know about obesity is wrong’, Michael Hobbes pointed out that studies have found that anywhere from one-third to three-quarters of people classified as obese are metabolically healthy.

The NHS classes anyone with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 as overweight. A person with a BMI of 30 to 39.9 is classified as obese.

NHS figures suggest that 63 per cent of adults in the UK are overweight or obese, however research reported today suggested this number could be higher, due to a lack of up-top-date information.

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