Researchers say switching from driving to cycling may benefit health.
The findings come from an international team of researchers - led by Dr. Audrey de Nazelle from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom - who analyzed the data of around 11,000 adults across Europe.
The research forms a part of the Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches (PASTA) project, which aims to gain a better understanding of how different forms of transport influence the physical activity and overall health of the general public.
Lack of exercise is considered a key contributor to poor health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), insufficient physical activity is one of the primary risk factors for death across the globe, raising the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Despite these well-documented risks, 1 in 4 people worldwide fail to get enough exercise.
Drivers an average of 4 kilograms heavier than cyclists
For their ongoing project, Dr. de Nazelle and colleagues surveyed 11,000 adults from seven cities across Europe, including Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Oerebro, Rome, Vienna, and Zürich.
Participants were asked about what mode of transport they use to get around their city and how long they spend traveling using their reported form of transport.
Additionally, respondents reported their weight and height, as well as how they felt about walking and cycling.
So far, results have revealed that respondents who reported using a car as their main mode of transport are an average of 4 kilograms - or 8.8 pounds - heavier than those who reported using a bike as their main form of transport.
While these are early findings, the team says they indicate that switching to more active modes of transport, such as walking or cycling, has significant health benefits by boosting physical activity.
"If people can integrate this into their daily lives, such as going to work or going shopping, then it means you don't have to make special time commitments and it's more affordable for everybody.
Getting people to walk and bike as part of their daily transport modes is really an ideal solution to try to tackle this epidemic of physical inactivity."
Dr. Audrey de Nazelle
The researchers note that they are not yet able to confirm a causal association between mode of transport and weight, but they hope that with their ongoing PASTA project, firmer conclusions will be reached.
The team hopes to follow a total of 14,000 adults from the seven European cities, and they are still looking for volunteers. If you are interested in participating, visit the PASTA website.