If you’re looking for a new twist on your annual resolution to lose weight this year, you might want to change the resolution to “drive less”.
A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois and published in the journal Preventive Medicine concluded that driving less can contribute to maintaining a healthier weight.
The study was led by computer and mathematics professor Sheldon H. Jacobson. The team concluded that the time spent driving each day has a significant impact on body weight, along with calories consumed.
The University of Illinois research study suggested that even a small reduction in either the number of calories consumed or the amount of time spent driving each day could result in a reduction in body mass index (BMI).
Body mass index is calculated using a person’s height and weight. The resulting number is an indicator of overall body fat.
For adults, a BMI of 18.5 is considered to be normal. Below 18.5 is underweight, 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight and 30.0 and above is considered to be obese. While both men and women are rated on the same adult scale, different scales are used for teens and children based on their gender.
BMI is considered to be an important indicator in assessing potential risks for weight related health conditions.
Body weight is controlled by a combination of energy consumed, as calories going into the body, and energy expended, through metabolic functions and activity such as exercise.
Unlike other research teams, Jacobson’s group chose to look at the combination of both energy consumed and expended, rather than focusing on one or the other. They decided to use driving as a proxy for physical activity.
As Jacobson explained, “An easy way to be more physically active is to spend less time in an automobile. Any time a person sits behind the wheel of a car, it's one of the most docile activities they can do in a day.”
The researchers considered publicly available data that included driving habits, average intake of calories, and average BMI. They created a complex model to show how calories consumed and miles driven affect overall body mass index.