The study, from the Australian Catholic University’s Institute of Health and Ageing, looked at the driving habits of 2800 adults taking part in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study.The data was then compared against health measures including body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, fasting plasma glucose, and a range of cardio-metabolic risk factors.
The results showed that when compared to individuals who spent 15 minutes or less each day in the car, those who spent more than an hour behind the wheel — around 25% of the participants — were more likely to have a 0.8 higher BMI number (equivalent to 2.3 kg for a person with a height of 1.7 m), and 1.5 cm greater waist circumference. The study also found that men who drive at least an hour a day were more likely to put on weight than women.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 78% of people use a car as the main form of transport to go to work, with the study’s lead author Professor Takemi Sugiyama also adding that other countries that use a car as their main form of transport include the USA (86% of people), UK (64%), and Sweden (54%). Instead of just focusing on reducing traffic, congestion, and air pollution, Professor Sugiyama now believes that transport sectors could use this information to further promote more active travel in an effort to avoid the negative health effects of prolonged sitting behind the wheel.
Current guidelines recommended by WHO advise 150 minutes of “moderate intensity” activity per week for people over 18, which can include activities such as walking or cycling to work, and not just exercise through sport. They also advise that doing some physical activity is better than doing none at all, and that incorporating activity into daily life in relatively simple ways, such as walking to work, will help people achieve the recommended activity levels and reduce their risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases.
The findings can be found online published in the journal, Preventive Medicine.