Losing Weight Comes With Any Commute Not Done by Car

By ACSH Staff — Mar 18, 2016
According to a major study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, researchers have linked public transport usage with key health outcomes. Using a sample of over 150,000 British residents, they gave added credence to an important health principle known as active transportation.
shutterstock_378600721 Morning commute via Shutterstock

Want to lose weight? Try taking the bus to work. Or the train. Or the subway. In fact, anything but the car will do.

According to a major new study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, researchers have linked public transport usage with key health outcomes. Specifically, investigators examined the relationship between body fat percentage and BMI values as they relate to individuals who:  (1) Just use public transportation; (2) Actively commute by walking or cycling; (3) Use a mixed-approach, combining public transport and an active mode; (4). Commute exclusively by car.

The trend was assessed in over 150,000 British residents between the ages of 40 and 69 years old, making it the largest study to date on this topic. Researchers discovered that those who used public transport, actively commuted or relied on a mixed approach for their daily commutes boasted significantly lower BMI values and body fat percentages compared to those resigned to driving alone.

The strongest association, as you might expect, was seen among cyclists. On average, men were 11 pounds lighter and women were 10 pounds lighter compared to those who drove.  Researchers also saw significant trends among those who walked and the mixed transport category. Both showed comparatively lower BMI and body fat percentages than drivers, but the reduction was less than in the cycling group.

Researchers claim that the “incidental physical activity involved in public transport journeys has an important role.”

And its true, the caloric expenditure involved with these incidental actions between destinations — let’s say, walking between your home and the bus stop and then from the bus stop to your job — can really add up.

Dr. Ellen Flint, lead author and expert in population health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “We found that, compared with commuting by car, public transport, walking and cycling or a mix of all three are associated with reductions in body mass and body fat percentage, even when accounting for demographic and socioeconomic factors."

But the benefits of an active commute is not a new finding, and there’s been an extensive body of research that supports this important principle, known as active transportation.

In recent years, scientists and public health advocates have positioned active transportation as a salient public health target because of its potential to enhance physical activity among even the most sedentary individuals. Still, an international disparity remains. Data shows that active transport is pervasive across Europe, but much less adopted in the United States.

The Journal of Physical Activity and Health published a paper assessing obesity rates and active transportation across Europe and found that countries with the highest level of active transportation generally also had the lowest obesity rates. Although the results do not prove causality, they do “suggest that active transportation could be one of the factors that explain the international differences in obesity rates” between the U.S. and Europe.

So, if you're looking to lose a few pounds you might want to rethink your methods of transportation. Although there's a perception that it might not always seem feasible, national data indicate that up to 40 percent of all trips are actually within walking or biking distance.

ACSH relies on donors like you. If you enjoy our work, please contribute.

Make your tax-deductible gift today!



Popular articles