More Active Modes of Transport Like Walking and Biking Mean Lower Obesity Rates

Feb 4, 2009 by

More Active Modes of Transport Like Walking and Biking Mean Lower Obesity Rates

Recent research has shown that countries whose people bike, walk or take public transport more are less obese. Not exactly rocket science, is it?

The study had covered 17 industrialized nations in Europe, North America and Australia, and it used each nation’s own health and travel data.

Published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, the study found that, in the US, people were least likely to take public transport, walk or cycle. And, surprise surprise, Americans also had the highest incidence of obesity.

In the US, only 12% use what is called “active transportation” – 9% walk, 1% use a bicycle, and 2% take public transport. Obesity rate? 25% to 33%. That’s pretty massive, pun intended!

The corresponding rates in Canada (19% active transport, 23% obese) and Australia (14% and 21%) had a similar feel to the US rates.

On the other hand, the corresponding rates in Latvia (67% active transport, only 14% obesity), Sweden (62% and 9%) and the Netherlands (52% and 11%) tell a very different story.

“Countries with the highest levels of active transportation generally had the lowest obesity rates,” said David Bassett of the University of Tennessee and John Pucher of Rutgers University, the authors of the study.

So, Europeans bike and walk more, and part of the reason is actually the fact that Europe’s dense and compact layout is more conducive for commuting without a car. Even then, each of us needs to find more opportunities for walking and biking.

And biking seems a great idea. Not only is it quicker, but, according to Anne Lusk, a research fellow at Harvard School of Public Health, in a study conducted by Dutch researchers, whereby people were asked to match their emotions with different forms of traveling, “the greatest emotion was joy for bicycling”.

And of course, both walking and bicycling are also cheaper, and much friendlier to the environment.

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