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Want to Stay Slim? Leave the Car at Home

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Leaving the car at home and getting to work by walking, cycling or public transit is good for your health, a new study indicates.

Researchers looked at thousands of people in the United Kingdom and found that 76 percent of men and 72 percent of women drove to work, 10 percent of men and 11 percent of women used public transit, and 14 percent of men and 17 percent of women cycled or walked.

Those who drove to work weighed more and had higher levels of body fat than those who walked, cycled or used public transit, according to the study published online Aug. 19 in the BMJ.

Body mass index scores (an estimate of body fat based on height and weight) for men who drove to work were about one point higher than among those who walked, cycled or used public transit. That's a weight difference of about 6.6 pounds.

Body mass index scores for women who drove to work were about 0.7 points higher than for those who walked, cycled or used public transit, the researchers noted in a journal news release. That's a weight difference of about 5.5 pounds.

These differences are greater than those seen in many diet and exercise programs meant to prevent overweight and obesity, according to study author Ellen Flint and colleagues from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London.

The use of walking, cycling and public transit to get to work "should be considered as part of strategies to reduce the burden of obesity and related health conditions," the study authors concluded.

However, while the study found an association between weight and method of transportation to work, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about weight control.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Aug. 19, 2014