Taking public transit may help you keep fit

March 27th, 2009 - 11:00 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, March 27 (ANI): People may help themselves keep fit by taking public transit, if a new study from the University of British Columbia is to be believed.

The university researchers found during the study that people who took public transit are three times more likely to meet the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s suggested daily minimum of physical activity, compared to those who did not.

Doctoral student Ugo Lachapelle and Associate Professor Lawrence Frank of the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning have revealed that they used 4,156 travel surveys from metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, to examine whether transit and car trips were associated with meeting the recommended levels of physical activity by walking.

The researchers say that the fact that transit trips by bus and train often involve walking to and from stops increases the likelihood that people will meet the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five days a week.

According to them, people who drove the most were the least likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity.

“The idea of needing to go to the gym to get your daily dose of exercise is a misperception,” says Frank, the J. Armand Bombardier Chairholder in Sustainable Transportation and a researcher at the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability.

“These short walks throughout our day are historically how we have gotten our activity. Unfortunately, we’ve engineered this activity out of our daily lives,” the researcher adds.

Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that making transit incentives more broadly available might produce indirect health benefits by getting people walking, even if it was just in short bouts.

“This should be appealing to policy makers because it’s easier to promote transit incentives - such as employer-sponsored passes or discount fares - than to restructure existing neighbourhoods,” says Frank.

Lachapelle believes that the findings of this study may have major implications for urban planning and public transit development.

“You don’t necessarily have to rebuild communities or make major investments in infrastructure to promote public health. There are things we can do in the interim, such as encourage people to drive less, and adapt their lifestyles which will get people more physically active and generate fewer greenhouse gasses,” he says.

The study has been published in the Journal of Public Health Policy. (ANI)

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