Riding public transportation or commuting may help people lose weight, a new study has found. The secret lies in the so-called "incidental" physical activity that people exert while out on the road.
Lack of physical activity is said to be one of the leading causes of obesity and premature death. WIth this, researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine decided to conduct a study to find the relationship between actively taking public transport and obesity in mid-life.
Better Than Driving
The authors discovered that cycling to work has the most powerful association with body mass index (BMI) and percentage body fat reduction, with men being 5 kilograms (11 pounds) lighter and women being 4.4 kilograms (9.7 pounds) lighter than the average. Next in the list of having a huge impact on BMI and body fat reduction is walking to work.
The researchers compared the weights of men and women who used public transport, mixed public and active commuting methods and exclusive car driving. They found that men who used public transport and walked or cycled to work were 2.2 kilograms (4.8 pounds) and 3.1 kilograms (6.8 pounds) lighter than car users respectively. Women also produced the same results, exuding weight differences of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) for public transport users and 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) for active commuters.
Even if the participants used mixed public and active transport, the effect is still the same: lower BMI and percentage body fat compared to car users.
"These findings support the case for interventions to promote active travel as a population-level policy response for prevention of obesity in mid-life," the authors write.
Practicality vs. Health Benefits
The study raises concerns as to how public and active commuting are not practical for those who live very far from their workplace. However, the authors say active commuting, which entails walking or cycling a short distance, is a way to increase physical activity without the need to spend lots of cash and dedicate a specific time out of a busy schedule.
How The Authors Came Up With The Results
Researchers Ellen Flint and Steven Cummins reviewed data from the UK Biobank. The data were gathered from people aged 40 to 69 years old who went to 22 assessment facilities from 2006-2010. The participants reported their commuting methods and were classified to fit seven types of physical exertion activities.
The authors also assessed the BMI and percentage body fat of the participants to come up with the final results.
The study was published on Thursday in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.
Photo: Carlton Reid | Flickr