According to a new study, conducted by the Australian Catholic University, people who spend an hour or more in the car each day tend to be 2.3 kg heavier and have a waist that is about 1.5 cm wider when compared to those who spend 15 minutes or less in their cars on a daily basis. The report found that these gains were more prominent in men than in women.
The latest study was led by Professor Takemi Sugiyama from the Australian Catholic University’s Institute of Health and Ageing. The study assessed the driving habits of 2,800 adults from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study against health measures including body mass index (or BMI), waist circumference, fasting plasma glucose and a range of cardio-metabolic risk factors. The Australian Bureau of Statistics claims 78 percent of people use a car as their main form of transportation to get both to and from work.
The study says relative to participants who spent 15 minutes or less per day in cars, those who spent more than 1 hour a day (which added up to about 25 percent of the sample) were likely to have a 0.8 greater BMI and a 1.5 cm larger waist circumference.
Professor Sugiyama, who is an expert on the nexus between health and urban design says that prolonged time spent sitting in a vehicle is directly associated with higher total and central adiposity and a more adverse cardio-metabolic risk profile. He explains that transport sectors have been trying to promote active travel mainly to reduce congestion, pollution of the air and the proliferation of automobile related infrastructure. These efforts can be supported even further by creating a compelling body of evidence on the adverse health impact of prolonged time spent in vehicles.
86 percent of people in the United States of America use their car as their main form of transportation, the United Kingdom is at 64 percent and Sweden is at 54 percent. Professor Sugiyama says his most recent study may be able to provide a more comprehensive evidence base to underpin advocacy of active transport options. He believes if collaborative research could be conducted between the medical field, transport as well as planning sectors, there would be a considerable amount of research available that could promote active travel on a large scale. This could also continue the base for cardio-metabolic disease prevention initiatives.
The complete study was published in the Preventive Medicine journal.