How do you get to work? If you commute by any method other than a car, you are ahead of the game, health-wise. A recent study by British researchers found that people who drove to work weighed more and had a higher percentage of body fat than those who got to work by walking, biking or public transportation.
The study involved data from 157,000 middle-aged British adults, collected between 2006 and 2010. Body fat was assessed in two ways: body mass index (BMI), which is a ratio of weight to height, and body fat percentage.
“Even after accounting for a wide range of characteristics and lifestyle information about the participants, active commuting methods were linked to lower body weight and body fat.
The biggest difference was seen between cyclists and drivers. Men who biked to work averaged nearly two BMI points less and were about 11 pounds lighter than those who drove. Women who biked were about 1.65 BMI points less and 9.7 pounds lighter than those who commuted by car.”
While biking yielded the highest benefits, men and women who used any other means of commuting — such as walking or taking public transportation – had lower body fat percentage and BMI compared to adults who commuted by car.
Dr. Lars Bo Andersen of Sogn and Fjordane University College in Norway commented on the study, noting that everyday health choices make a difference.
“The average person gains 1-2 pounds each year after the age of 30 years,” Andersen said by email. “This trend will be prevented by simple things such as choosing the active travel, small changes in nutrition, etc.”
Weight gain isn’t the only liability associated with driving commutes – many studies show that commuting can be a very stressful activity, too – particularly if the commute is long or entails heavy traffic, adverse weather, or any other challenging road condition.
Maybe your work-life situation requires the use of a car, you may not have an option. If so, try to think of other ways you could cut down on weekly car transportation or add spurts of activity to your day:
- Park further away from the workplace
- Walk to the corner store instead of riding
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Use half of your lunch hour to take a walk with a friend