It’s estimated that more than 60% of Australian adults are overweight or obese. The majority of this is attributable to poor nutrition and lack of physical activity.

A Western diet, high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, prevails in many countries as do environmental changes that promote sedentary behaviour. One of these is a decline in active commuting, with many people opting to drive to work.

Research has found that active commuting can play an important role in reducing overweight and obesity, however many of these studies focus on self-reported health outcome data. Researchers looked at the effects of transitioning between commute modes on objective measures of body mass index (BMI).

Adults aged between 40 and 69 years were assessed for changes in commute mode. This was either a transition from car to active or pubic transport commuting, or vice versa. Changes in BMI were recorded.

Adults who transitioned to a more active mode of commuting saw a BMI reduction of around 0.30kg/m2 over the study period. Those who moved from active or public transport to car commuting saw an almost identical increase in BMI, of 0.32kg/m2. Most transitions reported in this study were between car and public transport, and vice versa.

Implications

There are ways to get more activity into your day outside of sweating it out in the gym. Making simple and sustainable lifestyle adjustments, like taking public transport instead of driving to work, can contribute to more daily exercise. You can also try to take the stairs, instead of a lift, where possible, try to leave your desk for a short walk a few times throughout the day, and ask your employer if they’ll purchase some standing desks for the office.

Last Reviewed: 13/01/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

Flint, E. et al. Change in commute mode and body-mass index: prospective, longitudinal evidence from UK Biobank. Lancet Public Health 2016; 1: e46 – 55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(16)30006-8.