Are we driving ourselves fat?
Time spent sitting in traffic is enough to raise most people’s frustration levels. Turns out it raises more than that.
A new Australian study has found that time spent driving each day is associated with waist circumference, BMI, blood glucose levels and cardio-metabolic risk.
People who spend an hour or more a day in their cars are, on average, 2.3kg heavier and 1.5cm wider around the waist compared with those who spend 15 minutes or less in their cars.
This is significant given that 80 per cent of Australians travel to and from work in their car, the average commuting time each day is about an hour while about 20 per cent of us spend 90 minutes or more in their cars.
The researchers, from the Australian Catholic University’s Institute of Health and Ageing, analysed the health and driving habits of 2800 Australian adults, aged between 34 and 65 and adjusted for diet, alcohol consumption, socio-economic factors and physical activity.
Lead author of the study, Professor Takemi Sugiyama, said that while research has shown time in front of the TV has a negative impact on health, “we didn’t know much about sitting in transport”.
“What we found is if you compare those who spend more than one hour per day driving with those who spend 15 minutes or less, the health outcomes are very different,” Sugiyama said.
Previous research has shown that car commuters are more likely to be overweight or obese, compared to non-car commuters, however much of this research has been based on self-reporting.
Sugiyama and his team however, were able to access the formal data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study and assess these in relation to people’s driving habits.
There is a move by a sizeable minority to get out of the car completely and either cycle or catch public transport to work.
“Public transport use may not be necessarily sitting: this would be a major difference between car use and public transport,” Sugiyama explained. “In addition, walking to get to/from public transport stops may be involved.”
For many others, public transport, cycling or walking to work is not an option.
As cities expand with population growth, travel times are likely to become an increasing issue, Sugiyama said.
“Further away from the city centre, there is less access to public transport… people have to rely on their cars and spend longer time in their cars. There seem to be health outcomes for those people,” said Sugiyama. “Infrastructure initiatives are needed to enhance the health of those people.”
Liked this? Read these!
Got something to say? Get it off your chest here
The Juice Daily is a Fairfax Media owned website