Category Archives: Cycling

Commuting by car linked to weight gain

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Traffic_jamBy Laura Kennedy, Contributing Writer
Health Behavior News Service
Research Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Using active transport to commute to work can reduce the weight gain common to most adults. According to an Australian study in the , urban residents who drive to work gain more weight than those who do not commute by car.

“Commuting is a relevant health behavior even for those who are sufficiently physically active in their leisure time,” say the study authors, led by Takemi Sugiyama, a behavioral epidemiologist at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.

In order to achieve the level of physical activity needed to prevent weight gain, it may be more realistic to accumulate physical activity through active transport, rather than adding exercise to weekly leisure-time routines.

Overall, the 822 adults surveyed gained about 3.5 pounds during the four-year study. Daily car commuters gained the most weight, while those who drove only occasionally or never drove gained smaller amounts.

Daily drivers, even if they engaged in weekly exercise, gained on average 3 pounds more than non-car commuters. The only people who avoided weight gain altogether were non-car commuters who also achieved recommended levels of exercise.

“Public health, urban planning, and transportation initiatives … are needed to prevent weight gain through facilitating active transport and leisure-time physical activity,” the researchers note.

They surmise that the level of physical activity needed for weight maintenance, 150 to 250 minutes a week, may be best achieved by a combination of active transport and exercise.

Daily car commuters gained the most weight, while those who drove only occasionally or never drove gained smaller amounts.

There may also be differences in diet between car commuters and non-car commuters, which were not looked at in the study. More than 85 percent of Americans drive to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“For most Americans, it is challenging to find a safe route to work or shopping due to factors such as traffic concerns, lack of sidewalks, or protected bike paths,” says Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D., a public health expert at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Until these factors improve, she comments, there are ways to build more activity into daily life. She recommends “standing while working, taking stairs, activity breaks, doing active work at home … anything but sitting still.”

Along with increasing opportunities for walking or cycling to work, reducing the time spent sitting in a car may be an important public health strategy, the researchers conclude.

Health Behavior News Service is part of the Center for Advancing Health

The Health Behavior News Service disseminates news stories on the latest findings from peer-reviewed research journals. HBNS covers both new studies and systematic reviews of studies on (1) the effects of behavior on health, (2) health disparities data and (3) patient engagement research. The goal of HBNS stories is to present the facts for readers to understand and use for themselves to make informed choices about health and health care.

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Few Americans walk or bike to get around

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By Stephanie Stephens, Contributing Writer
Health Behavior News Service

Research Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Many people in the U.S. do not walk, bike or engage in other forms of active transportation, missing an important opportunity to improve their cardiovascular health, concludes a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Active transportation refers to any form of human-powered transportation, most commonly walking and cycling, but also using a wheelchair, in-line skating or skateboarding.

The study’s researchers suggest active transportation is “an untapped reservoir of opportunity for physical activity for many U.S. adults.”

“We knew that many studies have demonstrated that physical activity can help prevent a variety of conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and serum lipid abnormalities—all risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease,” said lead study author Gregg Furie, M.D. of the Yale School of Medicine, who specializes in adult primary care medicine.

However, the majority of previous studies done on physical activity primarily focused on its use in recreational activity or leisure time activity, he noted.

Using cross-sectional data from the 2007–2008 and 2009–2010 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Furie and his colleague, Mayur M Desai, Ph.D., associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health were surprised to find that less than one quarter of U.S. adults in a nationally representative sample reported walking or bicycling for transportation for more than 10 minutes continuously in a typical week.

“That’s a pretty low rate,” said Furie, “and we need to increase that level.” People who engaged in active transportation on average had lower body mass indexes and lower odds of hypertension, compared to those who didn’t.

The study identified reasons why government policies and infrastructure, along with “built environment interventions,” should allow and encourage active transportation.

Communities that do so may promote dedicated bicycle lanes and routes, educate residents about bike and motor vehicle road-sharing, provide bicycle storage, and integrate public transportation for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The U.S. has one of the lowest rates of active transportation in the world, said James F. Sallis, Ph.D., chief of the division of behavioral medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

“This is not an accident. U.S. transportation policies and funding prioritize travel by car, unwittingly discouraging active travel,” said Sallis, who is also director of active living research at UCSD. “This situation is made worse by land use and zoning policies that separate residential and commercial zones to the extent that it is not feasible to walk for daily needs. These new findings point out how transportation policy is health policy.”

He called the study “powerful evidence from a large national sample that active transportation is just as beneficial to health as leisure-time physical activity.

Not surprisingly, the findings highlight that transportation policies that essentially ignore walking and cycling appear to be contributing to the major chronic diseases that account for 80 percent of healthcare costs.”

There’s a need for better understanding of the overall benefits of active transportation, Furie said. “This information adds to the weight of evidence that suggests more work is necessary to develop environmental policies that make it safer, easier, and more desirable for people to walk and bike for transportation.”

Health Behavior News Service is part of the Center for Advancing Health

The Health Behavior News Service disseminates news stories on the latest findings from peer-reviewed research journals. HBNS covers both new studies and systematic reviews of studies on (1) the effects of behavior on health, (2) health disparities data and (3) patient engagement research. The goal of HBNS stories is to present the facts for readers to understand and use for themselves to make informed choices about health and health care.

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More walking, cycling linked to healthier weights worldwide

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By Randy Dotinga, Contributing Writer
Health Behavior News Service

A woman's pink running shoesAmble, stroll or pedal: it’s all good. A new study provides evidence supporting a seemingly obvious — but unproven — link between walking- and cycling-friendly communities and lower levels of obesity.

Researchers found that people are more likely to have healthy weights if they live in places where walking and cycling are more common. The link held up among nations, cities and U.S. states.

The research does not prove that living in couch-potato land directly boosts a resident’s risk of being fat.

Still, the study findings suggests,“it’s really important to promote walking and cycling as safe, convenient and feasible modes of getting around on an everyday basis,” said lead author John Pucher, a professor who studies transportation at Rutgers University.

Among American cities, the highest rates of walking and cycling to work were in Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle.

Pucher and colleagues analyzed statistics about walking and cycling for all purposes from 14 countries, including Sweden, Spain and Great Britain.

They also looked at statistics about walking and cycling to work (it had to be the main way people got there) in all 50 states and 47 of the 50 largest U.S. cities.

Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain had the highest levels of walking and cycling among the countries, with the United States in the bottom three with Australia and Canada.

Among American cities, the highest rates of walking and cycling to work were in Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle.

The researchers tried to find links between the levels of walking and cycling and those of physical activity, obesity and diabetes in the geographic areas. Their findings appear in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

A big part of the gaps between American states and cities concerning health can be explained by differences in levels of walking and cycling.

There is a connection between more walking and cycling and lower levels of obesity and diabetes, the researchers found. Not surprisingly, they also linked more walking and cycling to higher overall levels of physical activity.

The study doesn’t calculate the overall percentage difference in levels of obesity and diabetes between places with the highest and lowest levels of walking and cycling. Nevertheless, Pucher said readers can calculate those numbers and find other statistics by examining research data.

In the big picture, the study results suggest that a big part of the gaps between American states and cities concerning health can be explained by differences in levels of walking and cycling, Pucher said.

While the link between more exercise and less obesity might seem obvious, he said, it needs to be backed up by scientific evidence.

“As obvious as it is,” he said, “it’s shocking that Americans don’t want to do anything about it. It’s amazing how unconcerned most Americans are about this.”

Lawrence Frank, an associate professor who studies transportation at the University of British Columbia, said the study findings reflect the results of previous research that shows the effects of exercise (or the lack of it) on health.

“Physical activity is crucial,” Frank said. “If we keep designing communities in ways that make driving the more rational choice, we can expect health care costs to go up and quality of life to go down.”

To learn more:

Local Resources:

Health Behavior News Service is part of the Center for Advancing Health

The Health Behavior News Service disseminates news stories on the latest findings from peer-reviewed research journals. HBNS covers both new studies and systematic reviews of studies on (1) the effects of behavior on health, (2) health disparities data and (3) patient engagement research. The goal of HBNS stories is to present the facts for readers to understand and use for themselves to make informed choices about health and health care.

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Seattle site tracks bike crashes, thefts and hazards

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Bikewise map of bike crashes, hazards and thefts

The Seattle-base Cascade Bicycle Club has created a “map mashup” Web site where cyclists can pinpoint bicycle accidents, thefts and hazards on a map of the Seattle area.

The Club says that 75 percent of bike crashes go unreported.

The new Web site, www.bikewise.org will help identify crash “hotspots” that pose a danger to cyclists.

The location of hazards identified on the site, such as dangerous sewer grates that can grab a bike tire and topple the cyclist, will be passed on to authorities.

The club hopes that the theft reports will help reduce theft and make it more likely that owners will get their stolen bikes returned.

To learn more:

Other resources:

  • King County’s “Bicycle Resources” Web page, which has more than a score of downloadable bike trail maps and links to the local and state cycling resources including clubs.
  • Seattle’s Bicycle Program Web page, which links to more local maps and resources and information.
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New bicycle guide maps for Seattle and King County now available online.

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bike-map-largeNew bicycle guide maps showing bike paths, trails and routes throughout King County are now available online.

The downloadable maps are posted on King County’s Bicycling Resource page, which, in addition to the maps. provides links to dozens of additional resources including information about Metro Transit’s services for cyclists, bicycle skills and safety courses, and state and local bicycle clubs.

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