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Study: Car Commuters Put on More Weight Than Active Commuters

Going to the gym may not be enough to keep off the pounds if you drive to work. That's the result of a study published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Governor Brown touting the benefits of CA's gas tax increase. Left to right are: Torrance Transit head Kim Turner, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Governor Jerry Brown, Supervisor Janice Hahn, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, and Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey. Screen capture via Muratsuchi Facebook video

According to an Australian research team, active commuting is an effective defense against gaining weight. Among a sample of 822 Australian adults tracked over four years, people who walked or biked to work gained about two pounds less, on average, than daily car commuters.

Lead researcher Takemi Sugiyama, a behavioral epidemiologist at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, said it may be difficult for people who drive to work to find the extra time to devote to exercise.

"In order to achieve the level of physical activity needed to prevent weight gain, it may be more realistic to accumulate physical activity through active transport, rather than adding exercise to weekly leisure-time routines," she told the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health.

The study found that engaging in "sufficient leisure-time physical activity" also helped people avoid weight gain, but that car commuters who exercised regularly in their free time still put on more pounds than active commuters.

Street conditions, of course, will have to improve to make active commuting a viable option for more people in 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," said Penny Gordon-Larsen, a public health expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the Health Behavior News Service.

Hat tip to Jay Walljasper at Bikes Belong for bringing this to our attention.

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