In the first analysis which included 3,269 respondents, 179 people had stopped driving to work and were either walking or cycling or taking public transport. The "switchers" were young and less likely to have access to a car than those who continued to drive.

"Switching from driving to work to using public transport, walking, or cycling might help commuters shed weight within a couple of years," the team wrote in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Given that car use is high, the findings strengthen the case for incentivising walking or cycling to boost population health, the researchers said.

In the second analysis which included 787 people, 268 switched from active to passive travel.Some 156 stopped walking or cycling and 112 switched from public transport (usually a bus or train) to the car.

Switching to a car was associated with a significant weight gain of around one kg per person after taking account of other influential factors.

"If a larger proportion of commuters were able to abandon their cars for a more physically active commute, this could help drive down the average population BMI," the study said.

Combined with other potential health, economic, and environmental benefits associated with walking, cycling and public transport, these findings add to the case for interventions to promote the uptake of these more sustainable forms of transport, they concluded.

 

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