You might think that public transportation just helps you get from point A to point B, but a recent study has found it might also help combat obesity! Now, isn’t that cool?
Researchers from two big universities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Georgia Tech, dived into some serious number crunching.
They compared data from American counties in the years 2001 and 2009.
Their fascinating discovery? A simple increase of just one percent in people using buses, trains, and other public transportation is linked with a nearly half percent decrease in obesity rates!
So, how does this happen? Sheldon H. Jacobson, a co-author of the study and computer science professor, explains it pretty well. He says that when you choose to hop on a bus instead of driving, you’re getting in some extra exercise.
Think about it: you walk from your house to the bus stop, then from your stop to wherever you’re going. That’s a fair bit of walking that you wouldn’t do if you were driving your car.
The study, published in a fancy journal called Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, took into account a ton of factors. They considered things like people’s exercise routines, their income, health care coverage, and how much funding public transit received.
They even took a ‘longitudinal approach,’ meaning they looked at how things changed over time between 2001 and 2009. This helped them rule out factors that didn’t change during this time, like weather or the county’s physical geography.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time these researchers found a link between public transit and lower obesity rates. A previous study by the same team also revealed similar results, which gives their findings some serious weight.
But what does this mean for you? Well, the researchers are careful to say that it doesn’t mean if you start taking the bus every day, you’ll definitely lose weight. But what their studies suggest is when more people in a county use public transportation, overall obesity rates in that area tend to go down.
The data used in this study is a bit old and was collected when buses and trains were the main modes of public transportation. The researchers are keen to see how new services like Uber, Lyft, and bike-sharing programs might change the game.
In a nutshell, next time you’re deciding between driving and taking the bus, remember that public transit might just be the healthier choice. Plus, it’s good for the environment too!
As Jacobson puts it, “Our research suggests that investing in public transit can provide more efficient transportation options that not only help the environment but may also offer public health benefits.”