Thursday, July 1, 2010

Losing Weight the Fast and Easy Way: the Transportation Choices Weight Loss Plan

Throw away the diet pills, cancel your membership to Jenny Craig and stop feeling guilty about that extra serving of July 4th Cherry Pie because we here at Transportation Choices have in hand the magic elixir for losing weight - Public Transportation. Not only will you lose weight, but you'll save money and enjoy a better quality of life with the Transportation Choices Weight Loss Plan.TM

According to an NPR report of an upcoming study to be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a typical commuter on the LYNX Blue Line light rail system in Charlotte, NC (not exactly a smart growth paradise) could count on losing 6 1/2 - 7 lbs. or more in an 8 month period. That's the kind of weight loss that's real and lasting.

....Before and after the line was built, they surveyed people who lived for some time near the lines being constructed.

They asked them how often they exercised, whether they felt comfortable going for a walk in the neighborhood, lived near a park, and of course, their height and weight, income and employment status.

Then the researchers waited until 2008, six to eight months after the Lynx South Corridor Light Rail Line had been completed, figuring that would give people the opportunity to regularly using the system.

"We actually see," MacDonald says, "what happens to people who on their own (volition) decide to use the system and reap some reward in weight maintenance and weight reduction."

People who used the system more than once a week for 8 months after the rail line was in place had a 1.18kg reduction in body mass index (BMI). That’s a loss of between 6.4 and 7 pounds for a person who's around 5'5''.

"That's a significant drop in weight," says MacDonald. "People who used the system also were less likely to become obese over time." These were people who reported no significant changes in recommended physical activity rates in the initial surveys.

This, of course, is not the first study showing a link between a transit-oriented lifestyle and good health. Many public health experts, in fact, think that building communities around cars instead of people is a major factor in our nation's obesity problem. The CDC recommends better bicycle facilities, more walkable communities and better access to transit as part of its suite of recommended community strategies to reduce childhood obesity (see, pp 45-60). As Link Light Rail approaches one year of service, without really trying I've found myself about 10 pounds lighter. And, with a 7-year old son who'd rather play video games than play soccer, I'm finding that leaving the car at home at forcing everyone onto light rail or bus for that Saturday trip to the Science Center or Zoo is an effective way to make sure my son and the rest of the family gets a healthy amount of exercise.

So, if you're trying to lose some weight so you'll look good in your bathing suit on the beach vacation or you're just looking to get your heart pumping and increase your cardio-vascular capacity, join my and family me in adopting the Transportation Choices Weight Loss Plan. Taking the bus or train to work on a regular basis, making some more of those short trips to the store or school by bike or walking and you'll likely find yourself dropping a pound a month or more without even passing up on the summer barbecue. And, if you don't have good transit service in your neighborhood, or are worried about losing transit service through budget cuts, join Team Transit to make sure we can preserve and grow our transit network.

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