Ditch the car to shed flab: Study

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London: Want to shed extra weight? Ditch the car and take public transport to work instead!

Taking the bus or walking or cycling to work is linked to lower body weight and body fat composition compared with those using private transport, suggests a new UK study.

The researchers, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London (UCL), point out that the benefits were similar for both active (walking and cycling) and public transport, which may have important implications for transport and health policy.

The health benefits of physical activity are well known, and studies suggests that active commuters are at lower risk of being overweight.

However, self-reported measures of weight are prone to bias, especially in adults, and there is a lack of good evidence linking active commuting with objective measures of obesity.

So the team of researchers set out to investigate the relationship between active commuting and two known markers for obesity - body mass index (BMI) and percentage body fat.

They analysed 7,534 BMI measurements and 7,424 percentage body fat measurements from men and women taking part in Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study - a large, nationally representative dataset.

A total of 76 per cent of men and 72 per cent of women commuted to work by private motorised transport, 10 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women reporting using public transport, while 14 per cent of men walked or cycled to work compared with 17 per cent of women. Overall BMI score for men was 28 and 27 for women.

Generally, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 indicates optimal weight, a BMI lower than 18.5 suggests the person is underweight, a number above 25 may indicate the person is overweight, and a number above 30 suggests the person is obese.

Compared with using private transport, commuting by public and active modes significantly and independently predicted lower BMI and healthier body composition, for both men and women.

Men who commuted via public or active modes had BMI scores around 1 point lower than those who used private transport, equating to a difference in weight of 3kg for the average man.

Women who commuted via public or active transport had BMI scores around 0.7 points lower than their private transport using counterparts, equating to a difference in weight of 2.5kg for the average woman.

The study was published on the bmj.Com.

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