As anyone who's hauled herself up and down the precarious steps of a bus (or down and up the stairs of a subway station) has guessed, taking public transportation is a much more active experience than hopping in your car at point A and popping out again at point B. Though occasional commuter laziness can be forgiven, this aspect of taking public transportation is more like a feature than a bug, because it turns out that switching to public transportation can help you lose weight. As our lives and jobs becoming increasingly sedentary, public transportation is emerging as an important opportunity to get moving.
New research forthcoming in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health sheds light on the exact relationship between public transportation and weight loss. Led by Adam Martin of the University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School, the study was based on data from more than 4,000 adults via the British Household Panel Survey, taken between 2004 and 2007. At three different points during that time period, participants were asked how they commute to work, so individuals' changes from driving to other methods (or vice-versa) would show up relatively clearly in their weights.
The research team found that switching from driving to basically any other commuting method (walking, cycling, or public transport) is correlated with a 0.32 reduction in body mass index score. Although I'm skeptical of the body mass index generally, and although this equates to only a couple pounds of weight loss, the statistical association became stronger the longer a person's commute got. As Dr. Martin explains, "For those with a commute of more than 30 minutes, there was an average reduction of 2.25 BMI units, or around 7 kg (over one stone) for the average person." Over 15 pounds, not too shabby.
Switching to public transportation may be easier than getting yourself to the gym for a variety of reasons. The gym costs money, whereas commuting via non-car means often saves you money. Once you've purchased a bike or commuter pass, you may be hesitant to waste it. Commuting often means you can use that time for reading or another task, whereas drivers are mostly stuck driving.
Cardiovascular health is really important aside from weight loss reasons, and sitting too much is really bad for your health too. Moreover, researchers discovered that, while walking and cycling to work are best for mental health, public transportation is better than driving as well. Basically, time in the car makes you unhealthy and sad. So if you're currently driving, it's definitely worth a try to switch away soon!
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