Park The Car to Fight Obesity

Overweight and obese people can lose weight by driving one less mile per day

December 26, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Thoughts of losing weight bring thoughts of dieting to mind, but what about taking the bus to work instead of driving? Walking to the bus stop could burn 100 calories per day.

A recent study calculated what would happen if all US adult drivers drove one less mile per day. Statistically, national weight loss could happen from this small adjustment.

“The automobile is the quickest mode of transportation we have. But a consequence of this need for speed in getting things done may be the obesity epidemic,” said lead author.

"Ride a bike instead of driving."

Sheldon H. Jacobson, PhD, professor of computer science and mathematics, and Banafsheh Behzad, graduate student, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, teamed up to investigate links between car travel and calorie intake.

Dr. Jacobson said, “An easy way to be more physically active is to spend less time in an automobile. Any time a person sits behind the wheel of a car, it’s one of the most docile activities they can do all day.”

For the study, Dr. Jacobson’s team took national, public data on body mass index (BMI) from 1984-2010, amount of calories consumed per day and daily driving patterns from 1970-2009. The team then developed a statistical and mathematical equation to calculate the effect of driving one less mile per day on the US adult driving population.

The national average BMI used in the equation was 27.55, which falls in the overweight category. BMI is measured in kg/m2 and a normal BMI is between 18.5-24.9 kg/m2.

Researchers found that 100 fewer calories per day for US adults would result in a reduction of 0.16 kg/m2 on the BMI scale at the end of 3 years and 0.21 kg/m2 after 6 years.

Behzad said, “We’re saying that making small changes in travel or diet choices may lead to comparable obesity reduction, which implies that travel-based interventions may be as effective as dietary ones.”

“One mile is really not much, if they would just consider even taking the bus, walking the distance to the bus stop could have an impact like eating 100 calories less per day. The main thing is paying attention to caloric intake and moving more, together, can help reduce BMI.”

This study was published in December in Preventive Medicine. No financial information was provided. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 21, 2012
Last Updated:
December 27, 2012