Good news! Use public transit and lose weight

Good news! Use public transit and lose weight

Continuing with my theme this week of the weight of public transit users, here’s some good news – finally!

A study last year “found that construction of a light-rail system (LRT) resulted in
increased physical activity (walking) and subsequent weight loss by
people served by the LRT.”

Quoting from another report about American Journal of Preventive Medicine study:

Using two surveys, one collecting data prior to the completion of an LRT
in Charlotte, North Carolina, the second after completion,
investigators found that using light rail for commuting was associated
with reductions in body mass index (BMI) over time. Specifically, LRT
reduced BMI by an average of 1.18 kg/m2 compared to non-LRT users in the
same area over a 12-18 month follow-up period. This is equivalent to a
relative weight loss of 6.45 lbs for a person who is 5’5. LRT users were
also 81% less likely to become obese over time.

So, let’s just keep using mass transit and all my concerns about CTA riders spilling out of the “bucket seats” on the new Series 5000 cars may become moot.


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  • Since there isn't an LRT in Chicago, this probably is irrelevant.

    Also, I read the article, and the causal connection is that the LRT improves neighborhoods and people walk to it. Even if one could substitute L for LRT, I don't think either could be said for Chicago (as given the report a couple of weeks ago that the L stations were not walkable.

    Probably the people getting on the L at 95th are first loading up at the Dunkin Donuts in the station. The only exercise they get is shaking Rahm's hand.

  • Yes, correlation doesn't equal causation, but I'd like to offer my own, albeit anecdotal, evidence. I lost about ten pounds when I stopped driving and using CTA as my only mode of transportation. The effect was particularly salient when I walked to the L enroute to statistics class.

  • There are only a few stations that aren't walkable. And I do think the study is totally relevant. Martha is our proof!

    And I see plenty of people with Dunkin Donuts on the Red Line north.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    So, if the study is so relevant, but you are seeing plenty of people with Dunkin Donuts, and you have no problem with going days on end with regard to the obese on the L, there seems to be an inherent logical disconnect here.

  • In reply to jack:

    C'mon jack, even you can recognize that there is likely to be an effect.

    More public transit options increases the incentive (or lowers the cost) to using public transit, which reduces the incentive to drive. This makes people more active in two ways: (1) people using public transit are more likely to walk at some point in their commute than drivers, even if it's just the walk to the train stop (and yes, plenty of L stops are walkable) and (2) on the margins, reducing the incentive to drive reduces the need to own a car in the first place, which leads to an increase in walking.

    I know you like to be contrarian just for the hell of it, but you have to see some effect here.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    So, post the pictures of all the skinny people on the L.

    Otherwise, either the drawing of the 300 lb. man is fraudulent, or your argument is that otherwise he would be 400 lbs. Except, at that point, he probably would be dead of cardiac arrest.

    Give us the statistics on how many are like Martha.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    Not to mention the post yesterday that the FTA has to increase the testing standard for weight per passenger. I guess that the bus doesn't make one skinnier, either.

  • In reply to jack:

    Hmmmmm. Not sure where to start.

    Your first question shows you have no idea what anecdotal evidence is. You think if there is ONE 300lb person on a train that refutes this study? Even if there are many 300lb train riders, that doesn't anything. You'd have to compare train riders to non-train riders (controlling for a bunch of other factors...exactly what this study is trying to do) and then draw a conclusion.

    To your second question, the fact that the population generally (including the transit-riding population) is getting heavier says nothing about the relative sizes of transit riders vs. non-transit riders. This study doesn't claim that transit riders are skinny, just that they are likely to be overweight that non-riders.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    The bus tracker is counter productive in this instance,since it eliminates running to catch a bus.

  • In reply to JamesReyes:

    It doesn't eliminate running for the bus. I looked at the Tracker last night while leaving work and realized I was going to have to run to catch that bus that was minutes away from the stop.

  • In reply to JamesReyes:

    It can also be a good resistance exercise if you choose to stand and try to balance without holding onto the handrails, like what I do most of the time on the L. Even when there is room to sit...

  • In reply to Noah121:

    Oh, YOU'RE the bonehead who keeps standing in the way, almost falling into my lap every time the train starts and stops. Awesome. Pleased to meet you.

  • In reply to jack:

    This morning I'm actually going to walk a few extra blocks to go to Dunkin' Donuts for coffee before I get on the train. The irony.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Yes, I know there is a logic disconnect. But I think it should be obvious that walking a few blocks to and from an L station would make you burn more calories than walking to your car in the garage every day.

    See this post from 2009:

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