longer means larger waistlines
Researchers examine link between the environment
May 31, 2004
The Associated Press
ATLANTA - Spending more time behind the wheel — and less time on two
feet — is adding inches to waistlines and contributing to the nation’s
obesity epidemic, a new study concludes.
The survey of 10,500 metro Atlanta residents found that for every extra
30 minutes commuters drove each day, they had a 3 percent greater chance
of being obese than their peers who drove less.
The survey also found that people who lived within walking distance of
shops — less than a half mile — were 7 percent less likely to be obese
than their counterparts who had to drive.
“The more driving you do means you’re going to weigh more — the more
walking means you’re going to weigh less,” said Lawrence Frank, associate
professor at the University of British Columbia who oversaw the study when
he worked at Georgia Tech.
That much seems obvious, but researchers were surprised to discover
that how much time a person spent driving had a greater impact on whether
a person was obese than other factors such as income, education, gender or
About 91 percent of the people surveyed said they didn’t walk to
destinations. Many spent more than an hour each day in their cars.
Examining environment and obesity The study is one of the first to look
at the link between the environment and obesity, said Kelly Brownell,
chairman of Yale University’s psychology department and director of its
Center for Eating and Weight Disorders.
“Studies of this type are very important because they show factors in
our environment that can either help or hurt our waistline,” said
Brownell, who was not involved in the study. “These results show that the
environment, affecting our physical activity, is quite influential.”
In the study, which is expected to appear in the June issue of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers tracked participants’
travel behavior and measured their height and weight from 2000 to 2002.
The study focused on Atlanta, but Frank said the city is not alone.
“Most regions look very similar to Atlanta — anything that’s built
after World War II is pretty much auto-oriented,” he said. “We need to
start to look at the way we’re designing our communities ... the
collective impact of having to drive everywhere is becoming really large.”
Suburban, white men typically weighed about 10 pounds more than men who
lived in dense urban areas with shops and services, according to the
study, which will be presented Thursday at a national obesity conference
The study was paid for by $4 million in grants from the Georgia
Department of Transportation, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority
and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Atlanta
Regional Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency also