20 Aug Can Skipping The Car Commute Make You Thinner?
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Ellen Flint, BA MSc PhD, Research Fellow
Department of Social & Environmental Health Research
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Tavistock Place, London
Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Flint: Men and women who commuted to work by cycling, walking or public transport had significantly lower BMI and percentage body fat than their car-using counterparts. This was the case despite adjustment for a range of factors which may affect both body weight and commuting mode preference (e.g. limiting illness, age, socioeconomic position, sports participation and diet). The differences were of a clinically meaningful magnitude. For example, compared to car users, men who commuted via active or public transportation modes were on average 1 BMI point lighter. For the average man in the sample this would equate to a difference in weight of almost half a stone (3kg).
Medical Research: What should clinicians, policy makers and the public take away from your report?
Dr. Flint: Obesity prevention is a major public health challenge. Increasing population levels of physical activity is a key strategy, with the promotion of active travel modes a crucial component. This study suggests that the incorporation of greater levels of physical activity into the daily commute independently predicts lower body weight and healthier body composition. The facilitation and promotion of greater use of public transportation, in addition to walking and cycling, should therefore be considered. Given that the majority of commuters in the UK use private transport as their main mode, there are potentially large population-level health gains to be made by shifting to more active modes of travel. The use of active and public transportation modes in the journey to and from work should be considered as part of strategies to reduce the burden of obesity and related health conditions.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Flint: Further research using longitudinal data is required in order to confirm the direction of causality in the relationship between active commuting and body weight and composition.