Commuting to work by car linked to weight gain

January 23, 2013 by Laura Kennedy

Using active transport to commute to work can reduce the weight gain common to most adults. According to an Australian study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, urban residents who drive to work gain more weight than those who do not commute by car.

"Commuting is a relevant even for those who are sufficiently physically active in their leisure time," say the study authors, led by Takemi Sugiyama, a behavioral at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne. In order to achieve the level of physical activity needed to prevent , it may be more realistic to accumulate physical activity through active transport, rather than adding exercise to weekly leisure-time routines.

Overall, the 822 adults surveyed gained about 3.5 pounds during the four-year study. Daily car commuters gained the most weight, while those who drove only occasionally or never drove gained smaller amounts. Daily drivers, even if they engaged in weekly exercise, gained on average 3 pounds more than non-car commuters. The only people who avoided weight gain altogether were non-car commuters who also achieved recommended levels of exercise.

"Public health, urban planning, and transportation initiatives … are needed to prevent weight gain through facilitating active transport and leisure-time physical activity," the researchers note. They surmise that the level of needed for weight maintenance, 150 to 250 minutes a week, may be best achieved by a combination of active transport and exercise. There may also be differences in diet between car commuters and non-car commuters, which were not looked at in the study. More than 85 percent of Americans drive to work, according to the U.S. .

"For most Americans, it is challenging to find a safe route to work or shopping due to factors such as traffic concerns, lack of sidewalks, or protected bike paths," says Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D., a public health expert at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Until these factors improve, she comments, there are ways to build more activity into daily life. She recommends "standing while working, taking stairs, activity breaks, doing active work at home … anything but sitting still."

Along with increasing opportunities for walking or cycling to work, reducing the time spent sitting in a car may be an important public health strategy, the researchers conclude.

Explore further: Commuting - bad for your health?

Related Stories

Commuting - bad for your health?

October 31, 2011
A mobile workforce can help improve a country's economy but the effects of commuting on the health of commuters and on the costs to industry in terms of sick days is largely unknown. From a commuter's point of view, the advantages ...

Urban children are healthier commuters than rural teens

July 4, 2011
The children most likely to walk or cycle to school live in urban areas, with a single parent, and in an economically disadvantaged home, according to survey results that were published in Pediatrics today by Dr. Roman Pabayo ...

Researchers quantify how many years of life are gained by being physically active

November 6, 2012
In a new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, researchers have quantified how many years of life are gained by being physically active at different levels, among all ...

Physical activity by stealth NOT health

April 7, 2011
The Government sees active travel to work as a convenient way of building activity into lifestyle and an important public health strategy. A new study suggests that transport plans aimed at reducing car usage should be considered ...

Recommended for you

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

Weight gain from early to middle adulthood may increase risk of major chronic diseases

July 18, 2017
Cumulative weight gain over the course of early and middle adulthood may increase health risks later in life, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that, compared ...

Study finds children carry implicit bias towards peers who are overweight

June 23, 2017
Even children as young as 9 years old can carry a prejudice against their peers who are overweight, according to a new study led by Duke Health researchers. They might not even realize they feel this way.

Mother's obesity boosts risk for major birth defects: study

June 15, 2017
Children of obese women are more likely to be afflicted by major birth defects, including malformations of the heart and genitals, according to a study published on Thursday.

New study finds more than 2 billion people overweight or obese

June 12, 2017
Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.