Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Does Driving Cause Obesity?

That's the title of a Freakonomics article in the NY Times about a study of people who take public transit:
People are significantly fatter in countries, states, and cities where car use is more common. Mass transit use, on the other hand, is correlated with lower obesity. But there has been scant evidence that public transportation actually causes widespread weight loss — until now. A study of residents in Charlotte, N.C., found that users of the city’s new light rail system were 81 percent less likely to become obese, and reduced their Body Mass Index by an average 1.18 points — the equivalent of 6.45 pounds for a person 5’5″ tall. The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
And by extension is bike commuting one remedy? That's the conclusion of a 2008 study, Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America, and Australia:
RESULTS: Countries with the highest levels of active transportation generally had the lowest obesity rates. Europeans walked more than United States residents (382 versus 140 km per person per year) and bicycled more (188 versus 40 km per person per year) in 2000.

DISCUSSION: Walking and bicycling are far more common in European countries than in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Active transportation is inversely related to obesity in these countries. Although the results do not prove causality, they suggest that active transportation could be one of the factors that explain international differences in obesity rates.
Thanks to Hunter for pointing out the NY Times article.

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