A new study now shows that public transportation systems not only provide numerous economic benefits to a community, but can also be instrumental in reducing obesity rates.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Georgia Tech, compared and analyzed data from 2001 and 2009. The results of the study were published in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.
The study found that a single percentage increase in the number of passengers in transit is associated with a reduction of 0.473 percentage points in the rate of obesity in the United States.
Speaking about the study, co-author Sheldon H. Jacobson said, "Choosing to transport mass over driving creates opportunities for exercises that otherwise would not exist."
According to the researcher, instead of just leaving the house and getting into a car, public transport takes people to walk from their house to a bus stop and from there to the destination.
The study details a computational analysis of publicly available health, transportation, and census data in 227 municipalities in 45 states in 2001 and 2009.
The analysis included differences in economic and lifestyle factors, including leisure exercises, family income, medical care coverage, and public transportation financing.
The new analysis is consistent with the researchers' previous work, which found that each percentage increase in a nation's public transportation use was associated with an obesity rate of 0.221 percentage points less.
Speaking about the study, co-author Douglas M. King said the new paper took a longitudinal approach, meaning that they examined the differences between 2001 and 2009, allowing them to better control the factors that could influence the analysis.
"For example, factors such as climate or physical geography that can influence the rate of obesity of a municipality in 2001 and 2009 are controlled, since their impact is present in both periods of time," added King.
Researchers note that while the two studies differ in magnitude, they do not differ statistically significantly. However, both studies suggest that increased use of public transport is associated with a reduction in a country's obesity rate.
Although Jacobson admitted that as the analysis was done at the national level, its implications for an ordinary person were unclear, he added that the results indicate that when more people choose to use public transport, the rate of obesity will drop. However, he added that this does not necessarily imply that any particular person is less likely to be overweight if they travel frequently.
This study focuses on data collected in 2001 and 2009, when train and bus were the major modes of public transportation in the United States.
"It will be interesting to see how Uber and Lyft, as well as bicycle sharing programs, will influence this type of analysis in the future," said Jacobson, adding "our research suggests that investing in public transportation can provide more efficient transportation options ". which not only help the environment, but can also offer benefits to public health.
(This story was not edited by the Business Standard team and generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)