Taking Public Transit May Keep You Fit: Study

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Taking the bus, yes the bus, may keep you fit | Hill Street Studios via Getty Images

A British study finds that walking, cycling and yes, even taking public transportation to work are associated with lower body weight and lower body fat composition when compared against those who drive.

A team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London collected and assessed 7,534 BMI (body mass index) measurements and 7,424 body fat percentage measurements from participants in "Understanding Society, the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study," a cross-sectional dataset representative of the British population.

Ten per cent of men and 11 per cent of women reported using public transport. Both their body fat percentage and their BMI scores, like those of others who walked or cycled, were lower than those who commuted by means of a personally owned car.

Men who used public or active (either walking or cycling) transport modes had an average BMI score of one per cent lower than those who commuted via car, which indicates roughly a difference of 3kg in overall body weight.

For women, BMI scores were an average of 0.7 points lower than their car commuting counterparts, equating to an average reduction in overall body weight of 2.5kg.

As far as body fat percentage was concerned, the reduction was similar in size and significance, even after researchers controlled for age-related differences, socio-economic discrepancy, diet and level of physical activity in the workplace.

While the large-scale study did not zero in on public transport users, and they represented a small group, results indicate nonetheless that the stresses and unpleasantness associated with trains and buses could be outweighed by the health benefits.

Of the thousands of participants screened, 76 per cent of men and 72 per cent of women commuted by means of private motorized vehicles, while 14 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women walked or cycled to the office.

Average BMI scores came in at 28 for men and 27 for women, indicating that most participants were overweight, teetering on the lines of obesity, which is marked by a BMI score of 30. The ideal BMI score is between 18.5 and 24.9.

The study was published online in the British Medical Journal.

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