Less Car Travel, More Weight Loss

People making weight loss resolutions should consider less car travel along with obvious options like joining a gym or starting a diet. For those setting weight goals, reducing calories often makes up the entire plan. But a new study suggests that reducing daily car travel time can be just as effective as calorie restrictions. 

The objective of the study led by Dr. Sheldon H. Jacobson and reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, was to evaluate the association between average adult body mass index, car travel, and caloric intake in the U.S. in order to predict future trends of adult obesity. The researchers created a statistical model to find if two or more of the variables were highly correlated.

Using a variety of robust data sets such as the BMI data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and vehicle miles traveled data from the Federal Highway Administration, they found that reducing daily automobile travel is associated with a decline in average BMI to a similar level as reducing daily caloric intake.

Dr. Jacobson explained, “An easy way to be more physically active is to spend less time in an automobile … as it’s one of the most docile activities they can do in a day.” Using the researchers’ statistical model, the study found that making small modifications in travel or diet choices may lead to comparable weight reduction, the implication being that reduced car travel interventions may be as effective as dietary interventions.

Click here to read a summary of this study in Science Codex and here to read the study itself.

Fiat Nuova 500 image © böhringer friedrich / Wikimedia Commons