Thursday, January 19, 2006

Does driving make you fat?

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports what most of us have observed - people who drive to work are more overweight. This is usually when compared to active transport options such as walking or riding a bike to work. However the study concludes that using public transport is also better for your health and waste line. One assumes that is because public transport involves combinations of walking or cycling to the bus stop and train stations. The health benefits to the community are well documented and need to be included in any calculations on the cost benefits of public transport infrastructure.

Sydney Morning Herald - Thursday 19 January 2006
Fat chance of losing weight for commuting drivers

By Julie Robotham Medical Editor

DRIVING to work can make you fat, says NSW research that estimates for the first time the proportion of people overweight because of car dependence.
People who took their cars to work were 13 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese than those who walked, cycled or used public transport, regardless of their income level, the survey of 6810 employed people found. The further people had to drive each day, the greater their weight increase.
The study was the first in the world specifically to examine the effects of different types of commuting on weight, said Chris Rissel, the director of the Health Promotion Unit of Sydney South- West Area Health Service. The findings were consistent with previous US research that looked at the number of hours people spent in their cars, finding the chance of being overweight increased 6 per cent for each additional hour they spent behind the wheel, associate Professor Rissel said.
The NSW study revealed that even short, regular car trips significantly reduced people's opportunity to get sufficient exercise in the course of their working week.
"Movement is cumulative. It is incremental physical activity during the day," Professor Rissel said. "Still, about half the population don't get [sufficient exercise]." Adults should aim to take about 10,000 steps a day, he said, and even a short walk to the bus stop or train station could help them achieve this.
Overall, 49 per cent of the workers in the health survey were overweight or obese, and two-thirds drove their car to work. Seven per cent walked, 2 per cent cycled and 6 per cent worked at home.
The findings are due to be published this week in the International Journal of Obesity.

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