Need for Speed? More Like Need to Feed Less: How Less Driving Can Slim You Down

If you find yourself constantly in a rush to get to work, run errands, or meet friends, research from the University of Illinois suggests that slowing down could help you lose weight and improve your overall health.

The university study shows that instead of quickly jumping in your car to go somewhere, choosing to walk or take public transportation could have a significant impact on your weight. Their research concludes that avoiding driving can be as effective as dieting in shedding pounds.

Small changes with big results

The study proposes that making minor adjustments in travel or diet choices can lead to substantial reductions in obesity. Researcher Banafsheh Behzad explains that travel-based interventions could prove just as effective as dietary interventions in the fight against obesity.

Data analysis from the study revealed a link between increased amounts of driving and a higher likelihood of being overweight or obese. Researcher Sheldon H. Jacobson highlights the sedentary nature of time spent in a car, stating that “the automobile is the quickest mode of transportation we have. But a consequence of this need for speed in getting things done may be the obesity epidemic.”

By simply reducing the time spent driving by one mile or less a day, we could significantly decrease our collective weight and potentially save billions of dollars in healthcare costs.

Choices for better health

Jacobson emphasizes the importance of being aware of our choices, both in terms of driving habits and diet: “One has to be just as careful about when you choose to drive as when you choose to eat. These small changes in our driving and dietary habits can lead to long-term significant changes in obesity issues. Those are the kind of changes we advocate.”

Indeed, the correlation between driving habits and weight management is not only supported by this study but also by previous research. By spending less time in the car, you’re more likely to be active and maintain a healthy body weight.

Benefits beyond weight

Losing weight is not the only upside to spending less time behind the wheel. Here are some additional benefits that you’ll notice by venturing out on foot, cycling, or taking public transportation:

  • Improved mental health: Research from the Royal Society for Public Health has shown that those who commute to work via active modes of transport report higher levels of well-being and have lower stress levels than those who commute by car.

  • Increased daily physical activity: According to the World Health Organization, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. Cutting back on driving and opting for more active choices help incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.

  • Better overall fitness: Walking and cycling not only help with weight management but also with building muscle strength and increasing endurance. Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

  • Reduced environmental impact: By walking or using public transportation, you’re contributing to reducing harmful emissions that contribute to climate change and poor air quality. Cleaner air has been linked to better cognitive function and overall health.

In conclusion

Choosing to walk or use public transportation instead of driving doesn’t just benefit your waistline and overall health; it’s also good for your mental well-being and the environment. Small changes in our daily habits can have far-reaching impact on our lives and the world around us. So next time you’re about to jump in your car, consider whether you could really walk or take the bus instead.