Monday, December 15, 2008
Regular readers of our blog will know that Peter and I are frequent readers of two other health blogs - those of Dr Yoni Freedhoff and Dr Arya Sharma, which were recently voted the top 2 Canadian health blogs. They are excellent reading any day of the week, but anyone who enjoyed Peter's post yesterday on financial incentives for weight loss should see Dr Sharma's post on the same topic, which examined the issue from a very different perspective.
I am a firm believer that physical activity needs to be a part of a person's lifestyle in order for it to be maintained over the long-term. One option that I have seen work for several members of my family is active transportation, (e.g. walking, cycling or taking public transit, as opposed to inactive transportation like driving a car). For the past 6 years my parents have walked to work almost every morning, and it is something that they both enjoy and has had a very a positive effect on their health and fitness. I read a very interesting article this morning in the latest issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health which suggests that their experience is from unique.
In this latest issue of JPAH, Dr David Bassett and colleagues at the University of Tennessee and Rutgers University examined the relationships between obesity and active transportation use in developed nations. Not surprisingly, countries that had high rates of active transportation such as Latvia and the Netherlands (where roughly 50% of trips involve active transportation) had far lower rates of obesity than the USA, Australia, and Canada (where less than 20% of trips involve active transportation). What surprised me was just how strongly active transportation predicted obesity rates - active transportation use accounted for over half the variance in obesity rates. That's huge. The study has some limitations - it was cross-sectional, and they weren't able to control for food intake or other variables that are also known to influence obesity rates, but a very interesting finding nonetheless.
I know that active transportation is not feasible for everyone, but for those who can use active transportation to get to work, it makes a whole lot of sense. Even if walking or cycling the whole way to work is not an option, people can often drive part way and walk the rest of the way (what my parents do) or use public transit which often involves walking to and from the bus stop or train station. It's free, more pleasant than being in a car (any car I can afford at least), and its an incredibly simple way to achieve the Canadian physical activity guidelines. And most importantly, it's something that you can work into your lifestyle, which can't be said for many of the fads that Peter and I have blogged about in the past. So if you are looking for a way to incorporate more activity into your life, active transportation is an excellent place to start.
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