Your Commute Could Be Sabotaging Your Health

Are you a subway rider? A car commuter? One of the lucky few who can walk to work? It may matter quite a bit: Your method of commuting could be taking a toll on your waistline.

People who drove to work each day had higher body fat percentages and BMIs than people who commuted by other methods like public transportation, walking or biking, even after controlling for diet, according to a study published this month in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

The study used data from 157,000 middle-aged British adults collected between 2006 and 2010, and concluded that men who biked to work were about two BMI points lower and 11 pounds lighter than men who drove to work. Female bikers were 1.65 points lower and almost 10 pounds lighter than female drivers.

Given that more than a third of Americans suffer from obesity and only 10 percent of American adults have a normal body fat percentage, any intervention that can address high BMI and body fat is an important one to explore. Currently in the United States, almost 86 percent of workers commute by driving or carpooling in a private vehicle, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The power of active commuting

Active commuting is using any mode, or mix of modes, that involves physical activity, explained Ellen Flint, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and lead author of the study. And while taking public transportation might not seem terribly active, participants who took public transit still had lower BMIs and body-fat percentages than participants who solely drove to work.

Even a small amount of incidental physical activity, such as walking to the train station, standing in a crowded subway car or walking up an escalator, is better than —> Read More