Driving Is Why You're Fat

Our car culture may be to blame for skyrocketing obesity rates.

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Obesity is a complicated disease. It can be caused by your mom's pregnancy diet, genetics, your KFC Double Down habit, or some combination of all three. But why has the problem reached such epidemic proportions in the U.S.? Researchers at the University of Illinois think our car culture may be to blame.

After analyzing national statistics from between 1985 and 2007, the researchers found that vehicle use (measured in annual vehicle miles traveled) correlated approximately 99% with annual obesity rates. The more we sit around doing nothing in our cars, the fatter we get.

Of course, cars and roads aren't going anywhere, but we could stand to drive just a little bit less. If every licensed driver in the country cut down on travel by just one mile each day, in six years the obesity rate would drop 2.16%--cutting down on the number of obese adults by almost 5 million people, according to PhysOrg.

This may be an impossible goal; tearing Americans away from their cars is almost as difficult as detaching them from their cell phones. There will be a lot of kicking and screaming involved. But initiatives like Bike to Work Day make a difference, as do increased public transportation routes and better telecommuting work policies. And there's an added bonus to cutting down on driving: Fewer car miles means less gasoline is used in the U.S. overall, which means staving off our energy crisis just a little bit longer.

[Image: Flickr user Brave Heart]

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8 Comments

  • Anonymous Reader

     Fail. Correlation != Causation

    And this guy is a statistician from a big university? I weep for science in America.

  • Andrew Krause

    Cars don't cause obesity; eating too much food causes obesity. The correlation this poor, misguided researcher (who should know better) is missing is wealth; America's higher standard of living allows us to afford more cars, more gas to drive with and more food to eat.

    Incidentally, Mexico has a lower standard of living and fewer miles driven and they have higher obesity rate than the US.

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    We chose to live in a suburban community where we could still walk to Starbucks, the commuter train, and the grocery store, and bike pretty much anywhere, and I am convinced it is helping our health and weight.

    David Kaiser
    Time Management Coach to Authentic Leaders
    www.DarkMatterConsulting.com
     

  • Mountain Evan Chang

     "If every licensed driver in the country cut down on travel by just one mile each day, in six years the obesity rate would drop 2.16%" I don't see how this would work, since most people would just be sitting on their ass at home too.If every licensed driver in the country cut down on travel by just one mile each day, in six years the obesity rate would drop 2.16%" I don't see how this would work, since most people would just be sitting on their ass at home too.

  • Tom

    "...
    but we could drive stand to drie just a little bit less." Does anybody proofread articles before they are published?

  • Mountain Evan Chang

    I'm guessing it's just correlation. Lower-income folks have higher obesity rates. They are also more likely to use public transit.