1. Participants who switched from walking or cycling to motor transport had a significant increase in body mass index (BMI).
2. Commuters who switched to active transport were more likely have a decrease in BMI and were more likely to have lower income and lesser educational level.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: Thirty minutes of moderate daily exercise has been shown to not only lower body mass index (BMI) but also to help prevent other health complications. Many people find it difficult to incorporate exercise into their daily regime. It has been proposed that incorporating physical activity into commuting to work may help promote a healthy lifestyle. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of changing from active (i.e., walking or cycling) or public (i.e., bus or train) transport to private (i.e., car or motorcycle) transport on BMI. Switching from private to active or public transport was associated with a significant reduction in BMI whereas switching from active or public transport to private transport was associated with a significant increase in BMI. It was noted that participants who switched to active transport were more likely to be from lower income households and were less likely to be educated to degree level.
A strength of this study was that it used data from an annual, national representative validated cohort that allowed investigators to control for many covariates and examine changes in BMI and the correlation to changes in mode of transport over a period of time. However, BMI was self-reported by the participants of this study which serves as a point of bias in this study. The study’s findings also distinguish characteristics of those switching modes of travel and can aid public health efforts in targeting campaigns.
In-Depth [cross-sectional study]: The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of changing from active (i.e., walking or cycling) or public (i.e., bus or train) transport to private (i.e., car or motorcycle) transport on BMI. Data was collected from the British Household Panel Survey year between 2004 and 2007 and analyzed for 4056 participants. BMI was calculated using self-reported weight and height. Statistical analysis controlled for many covariates including age, gender, occupational status, hours of work, and health status. Participants who went from utilizing private motor transport to active transport (n=179) had a decrease in BMI of 0.32 kg/m2 (95%CI -0.60 to -0.05). Those switching to active transport were more likely to have lower incomes, smoke, have shorter commutes, and participate in leisure time physical activity than non-switchers. Those switching to public transport were more likely to hold a degree or higher qualifications than non-switchers. Participants who switched from active or public transport (n=787) to private transport to had an increase in BMI of 0.34 kg/m2 (95%CI 0.05 to 0.64). Those switching from active transport increased their commute time while those switching from public transport decreased their commute time.
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