I am a fitness woman – and I know that this is a sentence that gets the blood boiling for a lot of people. When you tell people about your interest for fitness, yoga or other activities, people tend to get angry and jealous. Well. This mean that I can probably not write an article about how people should stop using their car if they want to get rid of their fat. But I choose to take the chance.

Switch from car to bike or walk can help to stop the obesity. I am a Swedish woman that grew up in the northern part of Sweden, but lived a year in USA as a part of my university studies. I was shocked when I saw how many Americans that actually ONLY use their car when they wanted to move from A to B. It was shocking.

Here in Sweden, more than 6 out of 10 drive their car to work. Only 2 out of 10 walk or bike, according to the Swedish Institute of Transport Economics. They also checked these numbers towards how fat people were and found a clear correlation (not really a surprise). It also showed that people who previously walked or biked and then started to use the car to work increased their weight. This suggests that more “active transport” to work can be a cost effective way to reduce the incidence of obesity among adults.

In the new survey, nearly 6,000 adults between 40 and 69 years were asked what kind of transport they use in order to get to work: car, public transportation, bicycle or legs. Four years later, they were asked the same question. Their height and weight were measured from this, their body mass index (BMI) calculated (BMI says something about the relationship between weight and height and a BMI of 25 is classified as overweight and a BMI of 30 is classified as obese).

Those who replaced “passive” transportation to job (driving) with “active” transport (walking, cycling or public transport) had after four years on average 0.3 units lower body mass index (BMI) than those who remained drivers. Substitution of active with passive transport, however, was associated with 0.3 units higher BMI. Isn´t those numbers incredible? At least I think so.

Small but relevant differences

BMI over 30 is strongly related to development of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which are strong risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Being active when getting to work is no guarantee against obesity, but a switch from car to active transport make an important difference not only for each human being, but also for the whole community.

Whether switching from car to walking or cycling produces a greater effect than switching to public transport was not investigated. Another study from England showed that the switch from cars to walk or bike to work was associated with an even greater reduction in BMI.

Previous studies have also shown that users of active or public transport have lower BMI than drivers are as well as lower incidence of diabetes and hypertension. However, these studies say not always clear what is “chicken or the egg.” They also often based on self reported weight and height, which can be unreliable. In the new study, height and weight, is however measured objectively.

The relationship between weight change and type of transport could not be explained by health status, socioeconomic status or other lifestyle factors.

So…are you ready to start walking to work? Or what about getting a bike? It is not only better for yourself and your heart, but also for the environment and your community.