Environment

Use it (Transit) to Lose it (Weight)

| by NRDC

By Kaid Benfield 

Science Daily reports that, in a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the RAND Corporation

have found that construction of a light-rail system (LRT) resulted in increased physical activity (walking) and subsequent weight loss by people served by the LRT.  From Science Daily:

“Using two surveys, one collecting data prior to the completion of an LRT in Charlotte, North Carolina, the second after completion, investigators found that using light rail for commuting was associated with reductions in body mass index (BMI) over time. Specifically, LRT reduced BMI by an average of 1.18 kg/m2 compared to non-LRT users in the same area over a 12-18 month follow-up period. This is equivalent to a relative weight loss of 6.45 lbs for a person who is 5'5. LRT users were also 81% less likely to become obese over time.”

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It makes intuitive sense, given that taking transit inevitably involves walking.  I don’t know that I would have predicted an average change that substantial, though.  The study also found the following associations with LRT usage:

-- More positive perceptions of one’s neighborhood
-- 15 percent lower odds of obesity
-- 9 percent higher odds of meeting weekly recommended physical activity through walking
-- 11 percent higher odds of meeting recommended physical activity levels of vigorous exercise [note: running to catch the train?]
-- 81 percent reduced odds of “becoming obese over time”

The lead researcher was John M. MacDonald, professor of criminology (!) at Penn.

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