Washington: A new study now shows that public transportation systems not only provide numerous economic benefits for a community, but may also be instrumental in lowering obesity rates.
The study, by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Georgia Tech, compared and analysed data from 2001 and 2009. The results of the study were published in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.
The study found that an increase in mass transit ridership is closely associated with lower obesity rate in counties across the United States. Speaking about the study, co-author Sheldon H. Jacobson said, "Opting for mass transit over driving creates opportunities for exercise that may otherwise not exist."
According to the researcher, instead of just stepping out of the house and getting into a car, public transportation prompts people to walk from their home to a bus stop and from there to the destination.
The analysis included differences in economic and lifestyle factors including leisure-time exercise, household income, health care coverage, and public transit funding.
The new analysis is consistent with previous work by the researchers which found that each percentage-point increase in a country's public transit use was associated with 0.221 percentage-point lower obesity rate.
"It will be interesting to see how Uber and Lyft, as well as bike-share programmes will influence this type of analysis in the future," Jacobson said, adding, "Our research suggests that investing in public transit can provide more efficient transportation options that not only help the environment but may also offer public health benefits."