August 5, 2010

“Weighing” In on an Unexpected Benefit of Taking Transit

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This week, USA Today and KSDK-St. Louis reported that Missouri joins eight other states – Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia – where more than 30 percent of the adult population (21 and older) is obese.  According to the articles, in 2007 only three states had more than 30 percent obese;  in 2000, no states had rates that high.  Now, more than 75 million adult Americans — 1 in 4 — are officially obese.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the varying reasons for higher obesity rates are complex, but include increases in meal portion size, the unavailability of fresh fruits and vegetables, the change in people’s cooking and eating habits, and the prevalence of too many high sugar and fat options.  But the CDC also mentioned the roles that environment and transportation play, citing that:

  • Many communities are built in ways that make it difficult or unsafe to be physically active.
  • Access to parks and recreation centers may be difficult or lacking and public transportation may not available.
  • Safe routes for walking or biking to school, work, or play may not exist.

People do not always associate transit use or the availability of public transit as a public health benefit, but anyone who regularly uses transit can tell you that they spend more time walking as they travel to and from stations and stops. 

Indeed, a study in Charlotte, N.C., took a look at the effect of taking transit on individuals’ weight. The study, recently published in the American Journal for Preventative Medicine, revealed that a year after a light-rail system opened in Charlotte, commuters who took light rail to work regularly were 6.45 pounds lighter than the folks who drove:

Factoring in the walk to the bus stop, the walk from the bus stop to the rail stop, and then the walk to work and back,  “It could add an extra mile a day [of walking] for the average rider. Over the course of year, that mile a day will translate into substantial loss of weight,” says John M. MacDonald who co-authored the study.

For people who do not have regular access to gyms or recreational activity, transit may be one of their most consistent forms of daily exercise. For those considering taking transit, exercise can be an additional benefit.

Do you take transit for exercise? Do you feel you get an added benefit to your health by walking to and from transit? Do you pair biking with transit use? Have you lost weight or improved your physical health by leaving the car and taking transit?

Metro Lifestyle

9 thoughts on ““Weighing” In on an Unexpected Benefit of Taking Transit”

  1. Susan says:

    That is one of the things I like about taking the train to work. If I am not running late, I will even get off a stop early and get a little bit of extra walking in that way. I do drive to the train station, but I don’t park up close, so that is some walking. It does help me to feel just a bit less sedentary.

  2. Patrick Richmond says:

    Many trails in the metro area are served by MetroBus and/or MetroLink. The MetroBikeLink is a trail that paralels the tracks in Bellville, Illinois. But I wouldn’t use it in the middle of the day if there is a heat warning out though. Between Bellville and College Station, it can get pretty hot in a hurry!!

  3. CP says:

    I lost around 40 lbs after a year of using transit as my primary form of transportation. I tend to think of the weight lose as a added benefit among others.

  4. Mark says:

    I combine biking and Metrolink to get to work. This gives me a nice 5 mile ride before work. I’m sure it’s good for me, but I’m not much of a ‘calorie counter’. I mostly just enjoy riding. But without Metro, it would be impossible to get from Belleville to Creve Coeur every day without driving.

  5. MarkB says:

    Another supporting argument for the benefits of incidental exercise – even if it’s just walking from the transit station to your workplace, multiplied by hundreds of times a year, it makes a difference.

  6. john says:

    Tried riding Metro with bikes with my son but we got kicked off the train because the security guard claimed there is a rule against having two bikes in one car and that sitting down with bikes (only riders on the train) were against the “rules”. This caused us over an hour delay and missed connections.

    At FAQ: Bicycles are allowed on MetroLink as long as you don’t block the aisles or seating areas for persons with disabilities.

    Since we were NOT blocking the aisles and alone in the train car, why would Metro Security kick us off the train? Who to contact regarding belligerent, uninformed “Security” officials?

    What a huge hassle and inconvenience…

    1. Courtney says:


      I’ve contacted our Superintendent of Operations to get a clear picture of what to do concerning bikes in the MetroLink cars…it’s clear we’ve had a huge increase in the number of bikes on the trains as its becoming more popular (I myself often take my bike on the train and buses). I’m very sorry you and your son had to go through that. Can you tell me what time and direction you were traveling? I can put in a complaint for you.

  7. john says:

    Spoke with other cyclists upon returning from Il the same day. All complained about the lack of space for bikes. There were five cyclists attempting to share the rear door area (plus two in the front of the train car). Inevitably aisles are partially blocked because the the cars don’t have hooks to hang the bikes out of the way.

    Previously in sharing space with two young sons (total 3 bikes), I was told by a “security” officer that ONLY two bikes per car were allowed. So I asked which son should be sent to another car on their own and how would I be able to inform him on when to exit. Needless to say she had no clue. In addition, how does telling a 5 year old that he (she) must “stand with their bike” improve safety?

    Who is the Superintendent and what is the contact info? Thanks…

    1. Courtney says:


      I’ve sent Mr. Gulley your email address and he said he will contact you immediately.

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